What Needs to Happen for Field Sobriety Tests to be Considered Valid?

Challenging a field sobriety test

If you are arrested for driving under the influence, one of the keys pieces of evidence that could be used to convict you is how well you perform in a field sobriety test. If you are not familiar with the way these tests are administered, you may be asking yourself if there is any way to overturn a field sobriety test. The answer is quite possibly “yes.”

There are several ways to challenge a field sobriety test:

The field sobriety test was not performed correctly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sets guidelines, and an arresting officer must execute a test that complies with these guidelines. Officers who use non-standardized tests, such as spelling an alphabet backwards or touching fingers to noses may be challenged in court.

Flaws in a field sobriety test. In a standard test, there are three parts. Horizontal gaze – the officer will look for an involuntary jerking motion in your eyes and how well your eyes are able to smoothly follow an object that moves from the left and right. Walk and turn – The officer will ask you to take nine steps, heel to toe, in a straight line and then turn on a single foot and walk back on that same straight line. Standing on one leg – The officer will ask you to stand on one leg and count until you are asked to stop while the officer looks to see if you can keep your balance.

In some instances, these tests may be challenged in court. Studies have shown that even when conducted properly, they may only prove intoxication in as little as 80 percent of the time.

Failing to consider your physical or mental condition. Some drivers have medical or mental problems that could affect the reliability of a field sobriety test. For example, if you have an inner ear infection or more permanent ear damage, this can impact your balance and cause you to fail the balance portions of a field sobriety test even if you are sober. Minor brain injuries or conditions may affect your ability to properly track items with a horizontal gaze test. Likewise, a skeletal or muscle disorder may impact a driver’s ability to properly take a walk and turn test.

It’s best to consult an experienced DUI attorney who will be able to explore these and many other possible field sobriety test defenses.

The Linda Louder Law Office proudly serves the residents and businesses of Sacramento and surrounding communities in northern California.