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Are field sobriety tests designed for you to fail?

On Behalf of | Mar 8, 2024 | Uncategorized |

Either someone’s driving before a traffic stop or the way that they answer certain questions might lead to an officer suspecting them of chemical intoxication. Drivers who might be under the influence of drugs or alcohol may face very pointed questions during a traffic stop.

Occasionally, police officers ask someone to exit a vehicle to perform field sobriety tests. Many people worry about such requests and believe that they might put themselves at a legal disadvantage by acquiescing to the officer’s request.

Is it true that field sobriety tests set people up to fail and put them at risk of unnecessary criminal charges?

There are many issues with field sobriety tests

In theory, officers could concoct many different types of tests intended to gauge someone’s chemical intoxication. To prevent unfair situations, the criminal courts usually only allow evidence based on standardized field sobriety tests. There are three tests that officers frequently administer to determine if someone may be under the influence of alcohol.

There is the one-leg stand test, where someone proves they can maintain their balance. There is the walk-and-turn test where someone must walk in a straight line, turn 180 degrees and follow the same line back to the starting point. Finally, there is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test that allows an officer to evaluate involuntary muscle spasms in the eyes that become more pronounced when someone is under the influence of alcohol.

Unfortunately, police departments may not engage in appropriate training to ensure that officers know how to perform standardized field sobriety tests. Officers might administer the test improperly or may fail to have someone perform the test at a location where there is video footage of their test performance.

Officers are also subject to a confirmation bias when administering field sobriety tests. They may assume that any performance issues relate to alcohol intoxication when there could be a reasonable medical explanation for what happened.

In some ways, field sobriety testing does set someone up for a greater risk of being subjected to a potentially unfair arrest and unnecessary criminal charges. Understanding one’s rights and the limitations of current systems for gauging chemical impairment may benefit those arrested during an impaired driving traffic stop and hoping to fight their pending criminal charges.