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Field Sobriety Tests: What Law Enforcement Officers Don’t Tell You After Pulling You Over


You'd be hard-pressed to find a person of legal driving age who hasn't heard about the infamous field sobriety tests that are used by law enforcement officers to test for signs of impaired driving. Recognized by drivers as something to avoid at all costs, these field sobriety tests have certainly earned themselves a bad reputation among the general driving population. And considering the fact that law enforcement officers have been known to make arrests based on an individual's performance during one of these field sobriety tests, it's not hard to see why.

What might be less well known about these types of tests is their propensity to yield highly unreliable results. Although an arresting officer would scarcely be ready to openly admit this to his or her suspect, these subjective tests are not based on science and are no more reliable than anything else. In fact, many would argue that these tests are noticeably less reliable. Why? The answer to this question lies in the inherent flaws that have since been identified with each one of the three common field sobriety tests utilized by law enforcement officers throughout California: the walk-and-turn test, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, and the one-leg stand test.

Are Field Sobriety Tests Designed for Failure?

Unless you have some affiliation with legal or law enforcement procedures, you would have little reason to know that each of the three field sobriety tests has been recognized for the inaccuracies that they yield on a regular basis. Take the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, for example. This test has been identified as the most reliable of the three field tests, yet it only yields 77% accurate results among those who are tested. Accordingly, we are led to assume that approximately 1 out of 4 people will fail a field sobriety test has failed because of the test's inaccuracies, NOT because they are intoxicated.

It is not the tendency of an arresting officer to disclose this type of information to a person who is currently being tested. Why would they? Rather, officers tend to proceed with these tests, willing to believe that they will yield accurate results despite the evidence against such a fact. Not only that, but some law enforcement officers have even been found guilty of administering one or more of these tests incorrectly. For example, officers are trained to be almost motionless in their execution of a field sobriety test, thus creating as little distraction for the person being tested as possible. Failure to follow suit accordingly could jeopardize the integrity of the test's results.

Since they were established, the National Transportation Board's field sobriety tests have been connected with a number of false arrests, improper executions, and the like. You only need to look at the multiple conditions which carry the potential to adversely skew the outcome of one or more of these tests to understand. For example, something as small as poor weather conditions could affect a person's ability to walk in a straight line without losing balance, or something as seemingly insignificant as a person's attire could alter their ability to maneuver effectively. Some individuals can also experience difficulty performing the physical and mental coordination that is required by these tests due to pre-existing conditions that have nothing to do with being intoxicated.

In the heat of the moment, when an officer is primed and ready to make an arrest, do you think he or she is going to give their suspect a rundown of the possible things that could alter the results of the field sobriety test about to be performed? This could jeopardize the situation entirely. Therefore, it is critical that individuals know ahead of time what to expect in the event that they find themselves facing a field sobriety test of any sort. Perhaps the number one thing that law enforcement officers don't tell DUI suspects upfront is that drivers have the right to decline to submit to a field sobriety test. Given the fact that these tests have been described by some as "designed for failure," it might not be a bad idea to forego the test request altogether.

Accused of Drunk Driving? Contact Attorney Jacqueline Goodman Today

If you have already been arrested on drunk driving charges, it's not too late to challenge the methods that were used to make the arrest. In fact, with an Orange County DUI attorney from our firm acting in your defense, you stand a very reasonable chance of having your charges dropped or reduced.

The Law Offices of Jacqueline Goodman is intimately familiar with the intricate details connected to all matters of DUI, especially those that involve the administration of one or more field sobriety tests. As such, we urge you to contact our office today and align yourself with a skillful member of our team who can argue on behalf against the inaccurate and untrustworthy field sobriety tests that were administered before your arrest was made.

Fill out a brief online form to request your free case evaluation.

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If You're Facing Criminal Charges In Orange County, Los Angeles or Throughout California Call (714) 266-3945; For After-Hours, You Will Be Redirected To Her Cellphone
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