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Even sober drivers fail field sobriety tests

On Behalf of | Feb 11, 2020 | Criminal Defense

The questions you may be asking yourself after reading that statement are, “What? Really?” Really, research indicates that around one-third of drivers who fail the standard field sobriety tests hadn’t even had a drop of alcohol when they couldn’t pass the tests.

So what does this mean for you if police pull you over on suspicion of drunk driving? Well, the odds are at least three to one that you will end up under arrest for failing these tests in which you don’t even have to participate, legally speaking.

How is it that sober people fail these tests?

Several factors contribute to how well you will do on field sobriety tests, such as age, gender and a host of physical conditions, including those below:

  • Ear infection
  • Inner ear problems
  • Head injury
  • Low blood pressure
  • Chemotherapy
  • Medications
  • Sciatica
  • Herniated disk
  • Plantar warts
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Circulation problems
  • Arthritis
  • Eye muscle issues
  • Peripheral neuropathy

Then there are environmental factors such as standing close to traffic, uneven pavement and more that also contribute to the odds that you will fail.

How does the officer contribute to failed tests?

The above do not even take into consideration the fact that the officer administering the tests gets to judge them as well. His or her opinion and subjectivity play a significant role in whether you pass or fail. When officers were shown a video of an individual taking field sobriety tests, none of them gave the exact same “grade” to the individual. To make things more interesting, the person in the video was sober, but the officers didn’t know that, and many gave the participant failing scores.

As you can see, the officer contributes significantly to whether you pass or fail field sobriety tests. To make matters worse, they can lie to you in order to get you to participate in the tests. You just have to stand your ground — politely and calmly, of course.

How does not taking the tests affect you?

Even if you exercise your right not to participate in field sobriety tests, you could still end up under arrest. Field sobriety tests are used to help an officer establish probable cause for an arrest, so if other alleged evidence exists, the officer may arrest you. What you gain by not participating is that you aren’t providing the officer with any additional probable cause. In addition, prosecutors will have one less piece of supposed evidence to try to use against you in court.

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