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Why these 4 field sobriety tests are questionable

On Behalf of | Sep 9, 2022 | DUI/DWI

When police pull over someone on the suspicion of drunk driving they will likely do one of two things. They may ask the driver to take a breath test, at which point the small machine will tell the officer if the driver has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher – or not. 

Alternatively, police may ask the driver to do several standardized field sobriety tests (SFST). SFSTs allow an officer to further gauge whether a driver is under the influence. These tests however can often be judged incorrectly, causing someone to be improperly charged with driving under the influence (DUI). Here’s how:

Failing a standardized field sobriety test is far too easy

There are several common SFSTs that police may use:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus: This exercise will require the suspect to keep their head still while their eyes focus on a single point such as a finger or light to evaluate their focus
  • Walk-and-turn test: This exercise will have the suspect walk on a straight line, turn and repeat the walk back while police examine their precision
  • One-legged stand test: This exercise has the suspect stand on one leg while staying balanced – failing to do so may cause an officer to judge them to be on a substance
  • Non-standardized field sobriety tests: Many other tests may be executed that aren’t common and are often referred to as non-standardized field sobriety tests

Despite how often these tests are executed, many people who aren’t under the influence have been improperly charged with a DUI. These tests often fail to examine whether someone has medical problems that might result in an unsuccessful outcome. Anything from fatigue to an inner ear problem or anxiety could causes someone to “fail” these tests. An officer’s judgment is really the only thing between a pass and a fail, and officers may let their opinions and biases sway them from an objective call.

You may have been charged with a DUI after performing an SFST. Consider reaching out for legal help if you believe the test was inaccurate.