Field sobriety tests don’t always provide accurate results
During a traffic stop where a police officer suspects chemical impairment, they will have to find grounds to request chemical testing or to arrest the driver. Often, the interaction starts with a few questions and then quickly precedes to a field sobriety test.
The officer will ask you to get out of your car and will then instruct you to perform several physical tasks so that they can check you for warning signs of alcohol impairment. While these tests are a hopeful screening tool, they are not as accurate as people might assume.
There are numerous reasons why a field sobriety test could return inaccurate results, including the three below.
Practicing the tests to pass
Ever since police officers started using standardized field sobriety tests to screen drivers for impairment, frequent drinkers have tried to prepare themselves to pass the test.
Practicing the walk-and-turn test or the one-leg stand test while under the influence of alcohol could improve someone’s motor skills while impaired, which might mean that they later performed better on the test when a police officer suspect them of drinking and driving.
It’s important to note, however, that while people can improve their balance and gait while under the influence, they will generally not be able to fake the results of the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.
Many people, even those who know that they have not broken the law, feel incredibly nervous when interacting with law enforcement professionals. Those nerves may lead to people overthinking things, stuttering their words and even tripping physically while trying to perform a field sobriety test.
The more anxious a person is, the more their behavior might seem like a red flag to a police officer. Someone who hasn’t had anything to drink could wind up arrested because their field sobriety test results seem worrisome due to their nervousness.
Numerous medical conditions
If you have an issue with equilibrium, motor control or muscle spasms, you could easily fail any of the standardized field sobriety tests while completely sober.
Even being significantly overweight may affect someone’s performance by altering their center of gravity or how well they can see their feet while performing the walk-and-turn test. When officers don’t take those medical issues into consideration, they might arrest and charge those who did not break the law at all.
Understanding how field sobriety tests could return seriously inaccurate results can help you plan to defend yourself against pending impaired driving charges.