Sobriety tests (also known as field sobriety tests) are used by police in DUI investigations to help them determine whether or not a person is impaired while operating a motor vehicle. In most states you are required to submit to a chemical test during a DUI investigation, however the same is not always true for a field sobriety test. In fact, most states allow you to decline a field sobriety test. While you could refuse to also take a chemical test, most states and departments of motor vehicles will impose harsh penalties for this.
There are many different types of field sobriety tests police may use, however only three are standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), The One Leg Stand and the Walk and Turn. This means that the NHTSA recommends police officers use these three.
Even if police officers use the recommended field sobriety tests during a DUI investigation, your test results can still be challenged in court. There are many problems associated with the field sobriety tests and they are not necessarily a scientific way to prove that a person is impaired. They are merely used to help police officers determine if an arrest for DUI should be made. So just because you “failed” a field sobriety test, don’t think that you’ll automatically be convicted for DUI! Your attorney can find weaknesses in the prosecution’s claims and can question the validity of the evidence presented against you.
What are some of the reasons I may have failed the field sobriety test?
First of all, you should not be asked or required to take a field sobriety test if you are over the age of 65, are 50 pounds or more overweight or have a physical handicap. These tests are somewhat physical and they must be administered with your safety in mind. The Walk and Turn and the One Leg Stand tests in particular require balance and if you’re standing on a hill in the middle of a blizzard, how can you be expected to pass?
So if you were given a field sobriety test, make sure you review the facts with your attorney!