Aggressive Criminal

Could a field sobriety test be wrong?

On Behalf of | Criminal Defense |

The police may pull over a vehicle if there is reasonable suspicion that a driver is drunk. For example, the police may have seen a driver swerving between lanes, running lights or driving aggressively. During a traffic stop, the police will attempt to gather evidence against the driver.

Law enforcement can gather evidence by using field sobriety tests. A field sobriety test is a kind of physical analysis of a driver and their movements. These tests are not always accurate. To understand why field sobriety tests may have false positive results, first, you may need to learn about the different kinds of field sobriety tests. Here’s what you should know:

What are field sobriety tests?

Sanctioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the typical standardized field sobriety tests (SFST) include the following:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test: The police may hold an object in front of the driver’s face, such as a finger or pen. The object will move from side to side while the driver keeps their focus on it. The police may look for focus issues and eye flickering.
  • Walk-and-turn test: The driver may walk in a straight line from heel to toe. If the driver steps off the line or falls, then they could be drunk.
  • One-legged stand test: The police may ask the driver to stand on one leg. The driver must hold that position for several seconds. The driver may fail the test if they put their foot down.

While the above field sobriety tests are possibly the most commonly used, the police may also use non-standardized field sobriety tests (NSFST). A driver may be asked by the police, for example, to touch their toes with both hands while reciting back a phrase. 

How might someone be mistaken for a drunk driver?

Field sobriety tests may be impartial as to whether a driver is drunk or suffers from a medical condition. In other words, a driver may fail a field sobriety test because they suffer from a disability. Drivers may need to learn how to create a strong legal defense if they believe they are facing wrongful criminal charges.