The Shortcomings of Field Sobriety Tests

Authorities look for signs of intoxication before deciding whether or not to bring someone to the station on suspicion of driving under the influence. Sometimes an officer only needs to smell alcohol or see an open container in the vehicle to make an arrest. Other times, an arresting officer may conduct a field sobriety test.

Drivers may be asked to walk a straight line or stand on one leg while counting. Others may have to follow an object back and forth while the officer examines their eye movement. These tests can prove useful for the arresting officer but there are many errors that can be made during the execution of these tests and those errors sometimes lead to wrongful charges.

One of the inherent problems with field sobriety tests in California and throughout the U.S. is that they do not take into account the fact that some people cannot pass them even when sober. Some medical conditions may cause a person to fail the horizontal gaze nystagmus test even if they haven’t been drinking.

Additionally, physical ailments may cause a suspect to be physically unable to balance or walk straight. The results of these tests are determined by the arresting officer who may or may not be properly trained to conduct them. It is crucial that their decisions are not based solely on the field sobriety tests but in conjunction with an accurate breath alcohol test as well.

There are many potential mistakes that can be made during a DUI arrest. Here are some of the questions that arise in these situations. Was the breathalyzer properly maintained and calibrated? Was the suspect read his or her rights? Were the field sobriety tests taken on an even surface? Anyone arrested for driving under the influence would be well advised to discuss their legal options with a skilled defense attorney.

The California DUI defense attorneys at Sitkoff & Hanrahan offer free consultations for anyone who has been charged with drunk driving in Los Angeles, Orange or Ventura counties. If you are facing drunk driving charges, please contact us at 866-430-8383 before discussing your case with the authorities or pleading guilty.

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