How can field sobriety tests be wrong?

By Jonathan Blecher on October 7, 2022

Have you ever had a field sobriety exercises (FSE) conducted with you? It probably felt a little silly having to perform tricks for law enforcement to demonstrate your sobriety, However, your compliance with the police may not have turned out how you expected.

Field sobriety exercises are just one of a few tools police may use to judge whether someone was driving under the influence (DUI) – but, these tests aren’t exactly foolproof. Here’s what you should know:

Disabilities and health issues can cause you to fail FSEs

Police often use chemical breath tests to conduct blood-alcohol content readings (BAC). Alternatively, they may allow their own judgment to determine if someone is driving under the influence with a field sobriety test. Police may use one of these standardized FSEs:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: the suspect may be asked to stand still while keeping their eyes on a single point, such as a light or finger.
  • Walk and Turn: the suspect may need to walk in a straight line and double back to where they started.
  • One-legged Stand: the suspect may have to stand on one leg and keep their balance for a short duration.

These exercises, however, aren’t an exact science. In other words, there may be irregularities that affect how the tests are performed or evaluated. And the results are subjective.

For example, the horizontal gaze test may be affected by someone who has a lazy eye. Alternatively, sleep disorders, ADHD, caffeine consumption or visual impairments may make it harder for a suspect to stay focused. The walk and turn test and one-legged stand may be greatly affected by someone who has issues with their legs. People with limps, sprained legs, broken bones or birth defects may not pass these tests. Persons older than age 60 may have instability or balance issues.

Police may make a mistake when charging you with a DUI. You can contact legal assistance to discuss your defense options and protect your future.

Back To Blog