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The Flaws in Field Sobriety Tests

 Posted on December 00, 0000 in Criminal Law

The Flaws in Field Sobriety TestsAfter stopping someone on the suspicion of driving under the influence, a police officer may ask the driver to perform field sobriety tests, which are meant to gauge the driver’s physical and mental responses. As a driver, you have the right to reject the tests or any other questions about your sobriety. If you believe you are sober, it is tempting to participate in the tests in order to prove your sobriety. However, you would still risk displaying signs that the officer will misinterpret as intoxication. There are three standardized field sobriety tests, each of which can pose challenges to sober drivers:

  1. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: For the first test, the officer will likely ask you to look at and follow the movement of a pen or finger. The officer is watching for signs of nystagmus, which is a condition that causes your eyes to make involuntary jerking movements. Eyes with nystagmus may be unable to smoothly follow the movements of an object. Intoxication is one possible cause of nystagmus, but some people have nystagmus when they are sober. Officers are supposed to check for signs of natural nystagmus, which would make the test unreliable.
  2. Walk-and-Turn: For the next test, the officer may ask you to exit the vehicle and walk along a real or imaginary line. The officer will tell you how many steps to take, after which you will turn around and repeat those steps. This tests both your ability to walk in a straight line and follow instructions. However, there are flaws in this test. Walking straight can be difficult, depending on where you are walking. More importantly, you are more likely to make a mistake in following instructions when you are nervous. If you ask the officer to repeat the instructions, they may misinterpret that as a sign of intoxication. The truth may be that you are distracted because you are upset.
  3. One Leg Stand: For the final test, the officer may ask you to stand on one leg while counting. You are expected to raise your foot at least six inches off the ground, keep your arms to your sides, and stay in that position while counting to 30. Some people would have difficulty completing this test in normal circumstances, let alone when under the pressure of a field sobriety test.

Contact a Wheaton Criminal Defense Attorney

Field sobriety tests are not always reliable indicators that a driver was intoxicated. A DuPage County criminal defense lawyer at Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, can argue that the results of your field sobriety test are misleading. To schedule a consultation, call 630-260-9647.


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