Field sobriety tests often serve as elements of a drunk driving arrest scenario. An officer may pull someone over and have them perform these tests prior to giving them a breath test. The results can often be used in court, as they may be an indication of impairment.
Unfortunately, these tests aren’t necessarily accurate. It’s definitely possible for someone to fail a test even if they are sober, which could trigger a drunk driving arrest. How could this happen?
The police officer who administers the test needs to be properly trained and needs to carry out tests correctly. An informed approach provides the greatest accuracy levels. If the officer makes mistakes or has never been trained to walk people through these tests, it can become unclear if a failure was the subject’s fault or the officer’s.
The tests don’t consider other factors
A big problem with field sobriety tests is that, even if they are conducted properly, they don’t take into account a variety of factors that can influence the results. For instance, maybe someone is overly fatigued or using a certain type of medication. They may appear to be intoxicated to a police officer, but their mistakes during the test are actually because of these other issues. Other examples are disability, injury or something like advanced age. All of these can make it more difficult for someone to complete physical tasks, even when sober.
How these challenges often play out
One common field sobriety test is the walk-and-turn test. A driver will be instructed to walk to a certain point, turn around and then return to the police officer who is conducting the test. What if that person has a disability that limits their mobility or what if they have a lingering back injury that makes it hard for them to walk or turn smoothly? Once again, they may stumble or make other mistakes during the test that have nothing to do with alcohol intoxication.
Considering legal defense options
Even though field sobriety tests can easily provide inaccurate results, they are still used frequently. Those who have been arrested because they failed these tests need to know about all of their legal defense options, especially if they believe that clear errors were made during the test.