3 ways to challenge the results of a field sobriety test

When you’re stopped for suspicion of drunk driving, the officer will ask you to perform some field sobriety tests. While you can refuse to submit to these tests, most people agree to them.

Field sobriety tests primarily benefit the prosecution. The prosecution will use the results to help build its case against you. Field sobriety tests are also useful for giving the police probable cause to place you under arrest. However, a failed field sobriety test does not mean an open and shut case. There are ways to challenge the results.

1. The tests themselves are flawed

There are three standard tests that police officers will rely on when performing a field sobriety test. They are:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test
  • Walk and turn
  • One-leg stand

An officer may choose to perform one, two, or all three of these tests. Some officers may employ the use of other tests. However, the above three are the only ones with any measure of scientific validity.

Despite being scientifically valid, the above tests are not without their flaws. Studies have shown that, even when performed correctly, the results of these tests are nowhere near 100% accurate. These tests also rely on the subjective judgments of the police officers, providing you with ample opportunity to argue that the tests were flawed.

2. The officer failed to administer the test correctly

If an officer fails to follow the accepted procedures for administering a test, you can call the results into question. This line of defense can also be used for non-field sobriety tests.

3. An underlying medical condition affected the results

Medical issues can have a major impact on field sobriety tests. Vision issues can throw off the results of the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. A problem with your inner ear can cause you to appear off balance. Other neurological conditions may cause involuntary body movements.

Defending and protecting your rights

A drunk driving case doesn’t have to turn on field sobriety testing. You can also challenge the results of the breathalyzer test. You may even be able to question whether the police had probable cause to make a traffic stop in the first place. You should discuss your defense options with a skilled legal professional.