If you have been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), a defense option available to you may be challenging the results of your field sobriety test (FST). In many DUI cases your performance during a field sobriety test is often the main piece of evidence against you. However, field sobriety tests are known to be flawed and various factors can impact the results of the test. Many consider field sobriety tests as being “designed for failure” as a way for an officer to collect further evidence against you in a DUI case.
A field sobriety test is typically made up of three different tests known as:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus
- Walk and turn
- One-leg stand
You’ve probably seen the horizontal gaze nystagmus test before; an officer may use an object such as a pen and move it from side to side in front of your eyes. This test is used to determine if you can smoothly follow an object from left to right with your eyes without involuntary jerking or unusual eye movement.
Walk and Turn
The walk and turn test involves walking a straight line heel to toe, turning on a single foot, and walking back the same direction. This test is used to determine balance and an officer will be looking to detect any imbalance, swaying, or unsure movement on your part during the test.
The one-leg stand test is similar to the walk and turn test in that the officer is looking for imbalance. You will be asked to stand on one leg and count until you are instructed to stop. During this time the officer will be watching to determine if you have balance which can often be impaired under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
These tests can be challenged based on their reliability in court; studies have shown that these tests are not always reliable in determining intoxication. If you have been arrested on suspicion of drunk driving based on your performance during a field sobriety test, it may be possible to challenge the results in court.
The officer must perform the tests correctly
Believe it or not, officers can make mistakes in performing routine field sobriety tests; however, these mistakes can work to your advantage in preparing a legal defense. Field sobriety tests must be performed in accordance with the guidelines set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Officers who use tests which are considered non-standard such as pronouncing the alphabet backwards, touching their fingers to their noses, or other non-standard tests may have their testimony challenged as unreliable to determine whether the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the traffic stop.
Physical or Mental Conditions
There are numerous physical and mental conditions that can impact your ability to perform on a field sobriety test. Common problematic conditions include inner ear infections and inner ear conditions, neurological injuries, and skeletal or movement disorders. These conditions and/or injuries can have a negative result on your ability to perform and could lead to a failed field sobriety test.
You can refuse a field sobriety test
It is recommended that you politely refuse taking any field sobriety test when requested by an officer. However, if you submitted to a field sobriety test legal defenses may be available to you. We recommend contacting an experienced DUI attorney in your area to learn more.