Field Sobriety Tests Can Malfunction
19 Jun
Author: Colin Maher
Date: 2015-06-19
Categories: Traffic

How Field Sobriety Tests Can Malfunction

Like many things in life, field sobriety tests are not foolproof. Many elements – most of them human – go into giving the test, taking the test, and evaluating the test. In addition to being subjective by nature, there are many variables that can impact the validity of the test. 

There are three typical field sobriety tests that officers will administer. These tests are:

Walk and turn: The officer asks you to take nine steps in a straight line, walking heel to toe, then turn on a single foot and walk back the same way.

Horizontal gaze nystagmus: When an officer administers this test he or she is trying to determine if there is an involuntary jerking of your eyes and if you are unable to smoothly follow an object left and right with your eyes.

One-leg stand: An officer requires you to stand on one leg and count until instructed to stop, while the officer looks for imbalance.

The reliability of these tests can and often are challenged in court. Various studies have shown that these tests do not have 100 percent accuracy, and in fact are reliable only between 81 and 91 percent in determining intoxication even when performed correctly.

Whether or not the tests are performed correctly is a significant issue. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a strict set of guidelines for performing the tests. An attorney who is familiar with the tests will help you defend against tests that have been improperly conducted.

Beyond improperly conducting the field sobriety tests, many times the driver who has taken the test may have a medical or psychological condition that impacts the test results. Common conditions can include:

Inner ear infection or condition:  The inner ear is a critical component of maintaining balance and equilibrium. An ear infection or any residual inner ear damage will cause the subject to fail the balance component of the field sobriety test. 

Neurological injury: A number of brain injury or brain damage conditions may cause a false positive when taking horizontal gaze nystagmus field sobriety test.

Skeletal or movement disorders:  Feet, leg, spine and muscle conditions can cause some sober individuals difficulty walking heel-to-toe.

Do You Need a Traffic Violation Attorney in Columbus, Ohio?

If you’ve been arrested as the result of field sobriety test, don’t allow the deck to continue to be stacked against you. You need the representation of a skilled attorney who can help you navigate the treacherous legal landscape. The Maher Law Firm can help make sure that your rights are protected. Founding attorney, Colin Maher is a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) certified practitioner for field sobriety testing, which is the same training police officers take. This training helps him evaluate and challenge the evidence collection involved in the field sobriety test process. Call The Maher Law Firm today for a free consultation at 614-205-2208 or contact us online.

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