Strategic Defense
From A Former Prosecutor

Field sobriety tests have a commonly overlooked flaw

On Behalf of | Dec 1, 2022 | Drunk Driving

If you’re pulled over by police under the suspicion of drunk driving you may be asked to do a breath test to evaluate a driver’s blood-alcohol concentration level. Alternatively, they may ask the driver to do a series of evaluations typically called standardized field sobriety tests. There are commonly three kinds of field sobriety tests in use:

  • A horizontal gaze nystagmus test: the suspect is asked to follow a single point with just their eyes
  • The walk-and-turn test: the suspect is requested to walk in a straight line and return to where they started
  • The one-legged stand test: the suspect will stand on one leg for a short time

Each of these tests allows the police to further evaluate their suspicion. As such, police can see if the driver is heavily intoxicated if they fail these, for example, losing balance while walking or standing and reaction time. The problem is, however, there may be irregularities that disrupt the evaluation of a field sobriety test. Here’s what you should know:

Confusing anxiety, disabilities or other difficulties for drunk driving

The problem with field sobriety tests is that police often have to use their own judgment to evaluate the results of said tests. Because of this, many kinds of anomalies can make a police officer perceive a driver as drunk.

For example, being pulled over by police can be extremely stressful and a driver may perform poorly on these tests if they’re anxious. Another example would be if a driver had a limp and couldn’t perform the standing or walking test because of a back injury or balance problems. Because of this, it’s not uncommon for people to be wrongly charged with DUIs.