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Cedar Rapids OWI Lawyer: What is the Finger to Nose test in the context of DRE testing

by David A. Cmelik Law PLC

Typically, Iowa law enforcement academy trained officers are required to enroll in a class intended to teach standardized testing for alcohol intoxication. This training consists of Iowa’s interpretation of National Highway Trafffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) instructions regarding the performance of standardized field sobriety tests, or, SFSTs. Among the “big three” such tests are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), the Walk and Turn (WAT), and the One Leg Stand (OLS), along with the preliminary, or, portable breath test (PBT). However, for drugs other than alcohol, law enforcement has recently begun to train officers to engage in additional purportedly scientific testing.


A select group of officers have been receiving so-called DRE, or, drug recognition expertise training that is 15 hours longer in training and requires multiple days and nights of schooling. DRE test administrators are trained to identify impairment by drugs other than alcohol.


Included in this testing is the finger to nose test, along with the Romberg, the Walk and Turn, and the One Leg Stand, all of which are considered part of the overall “psychophysical divided attention tests” that comprise part five of the twelve part DRE “system.”


The finger-to-nose test is a DRE test that is intended to determine whether a narcotic is interefering with psychomotor skills. The test is administered as follows:


“We ask the subject to place his feet together and stand straight. We then tell him to put his arms by his sides and close his hands. We instruct him to extend his index fingers and to remain in that position until we tell him to begin. We then tell the subject that when we tell him to begin he is to tilt his head slightly back and close his eyes. We instruct the subject that when we tell him to begin, he is to bring the tip of his index finger up to the tip of his nose. We further tell him that as soon as he touches the tip of his nose, he is to return his arm to his side immediately. We tell the subject that we will call out “left” or “right.” If we call out “right,” he is to bring his right hand index finger forward to his nose; when we tell him “left,” he is to move the left hand index finger to his nose.We then ask the subject if he understands the instructions. We then instruct the subject to tilt his head back and close his eyes and to keep them closed until we tell him to open them. We then call out “left... right... left... right… right… left.”


See American Prosecutors Research Institute: The Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program (available at


The law enforcement hypothesis is that a drug other than alcohol—or a combination of drugs called a “poly drug” cocktail of sorts—will noticeably affect psychomotor skills in ways that are readily apparent in the finger to nose test.


The officer will look for



Body tremors

Eyelid tremors

Abnormal muscle tone



If you or a loved one has been arrested for Operating While Intoxicated, or, impaired, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Waterloo, or other Iowa community, contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC at 319-389-1889 for a free initial consultation and begin charting your course back to life before legal crisis. However, remember that a blog is not legal advice and that sending unsolicited information to an attorney over the Internet does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

Science or Story? ​Increasingly, officers are being trained to engage in paramedical testing that purports to measure the effect of drugs on the body through the administration of psychomotor tests, part five of a twelve part "system" of drug recognition expertise, or, DRE testing for motorists suspected of impairment by something other than alcohol. Included in these tests is a so-called finger to nose test. If you or a loved one has been arrested for OWI in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Waterloo, or other Iowa community, ​contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC at 319-389-1889.

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