Roadside Exercises Given When an Officer Suspects

These exercises are given to a driver when an officer suspects them of driving under the influence.

The Walk and Turn

The suspect is directed to stand in position until further instructed by the officer. They are then asked to take nine steps forward, touching heel to toe on each step. They are asked to rotate 180 degrees while leaving one foot planted before taking another nine steps back to their original position. All steps must be on the designated line.

During this exercise, the officer looks for the suspect to:

  • fail to maintain stance while listening to the instructions
  • sway, fall or step off the line
  • take the wrong number of steps
  • fail to turn properly

The Finger to Nose

In this exercise, the suspect places his feet together, head back and extends his arms straight out. The officer then directs the suspect to touch his finger to his nose, instructing him to touch the left or right side at the officer’s will.

The officer looks for the suspect to:

  • sway or fall
  • fail to touch finger to nose
  • use the wrong hand

Romberg Balance

The subject stands erect with feet together and eyes closed

Here, the officer looks for the suspect to:

  • sway or fall
  • lift their hands
  • separate their feet

HGN – Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

HGN is the involuntary jerking of the iris towards the center of the eye. This occurs naturally but becomes more pronounced when someone is unbalanced. Alcohol consumption is a cause of dizziness or a lack of balance, however, it is not the only cause.

A police officer is able to observe HGN during a roadside exercise by moving a pen or a stylus in front of a person’s eyes and asking them to follow it as it moves from left to right. A trained officer can determine a person’s blood alcohol level, or BAC, by how quickly a person’s eye jerks back to the center.

If the iris starts jerking before it reaches 45 degrees from center, it indicates a blood alcohol level of greater than .05.

Blood alcohol level can be determined by a breathalyzer test or by an accurate application of the HGN test. However, results gained from the HGN test are only admissible if there is also a breathalyzer test confirming the HGN test results. Brian Barakat conclusively established that rule in Suarez v. State Cite.