Field Sobriety Tests: What You Need to Know

As an experienced Orangeburg DUI lawyer knows, field sobriety tests often get drivers in more trouble than necessary. While you are required by law to submit to a breathalyzer test, you can refuse field sobriety testing.

Field sobriety tests may give false positive results of intoxication. In this article, we examine how these tests work and why they can be inaccurate.

What Are Field Sobriety Tests and How Do They Work?

Field sobriety tests administered by police officers are developed by the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) and consist of three types of activities.

1. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test attempts to determine whether a driver’s eyes have an incontrollable jerking movement, which is associated with being under the influence. Thus, the officer will hold a pen at 12-15 inches from your eyes and move it sideways. You have to follow the movements of the pen with your eyes in a smooth and well-timed manner.

In reality, many people may fail this test for reasons not associated with drinking, such as being tired after a long day spent in front of the computer.

2. The One-Leg Stand Test

In this instance, the driver has to lift a leg to chest level, open their arms, and count. The specialists who developed this test believe that people under the influence of alcohol cannot coordinate all these actions at the same time.

However, the test has severe limitations. Even the instructions provided by the test authors indicate that the one-leg stand test has a level of accuracy of only 65%.

3. The Walk and Turn Test

In this test, you will have to walk in a straight line by placing the heel right in front of the toe of the other foot and then perform a 180-degree turn and walk back in the same manner. At the same time, you must keep your arms by your side and not use them for balance.

Problems With Field Sobriety Tests

As we stated above, field sobriety tests give many false positive results. Here are just a few reasons why they fail.

field sobriety tests in South Carolina

Poorly Trained Officers

You can find yourself facing a DUI if an officer is not properly trained to offer clear instructions and evaluate your performance during these tests. An Orangeburg DUI lawyer knows that many drivers fail one or all of these tests because they do not understand clearly what they need to do.

Also, some officers will interpret any clarification questions as a sign of inebriation. It is a lose-lose scenario. You are charged with DUI if you don’t perform the tests correctly AND if you ask the officer if you didn’t understand what you’re supposed to do.

Certain Medical Conditions Give False Positive Results

An episode of vertigo after an accident or a simple ear infection can lead to failing field sobriety tests. The reason for this is that the sense of balance is controlled by tiny organs inside the ear. They make us perceive concepts of up, down, left, and right.

If these small organs are affected by physical trauma or a medical condition, they don’t work properly and you lose your sense of balance. Thus, you may fail any of the field sobriety tests even if you didn’t have a single drop of alcohol before driving.

Age, Weight, and Physical Limitations Cause People to Fail Tests

Having back pain, weak joints, being overweight, or being elderly are facts of life. These limitations may prevent you from performing field sobriety tests, leading to a DUI charge.

Even wearing the wrong kind of shoes (too tight, with a high heel) can represent a form of limitation. Yet, some police officers will not allow the driver to take off their shoes before performing the tests.

Can You Refuse Field Sobriety Tests?

You have the right to refuse to take field sobriety tests since they are not compulsory by law. Keep in mind that refusing a breathalyzer test means your driver’s license will be automatically suspended under South Carolina’s implied consent law.

Talk to an Orangeburg DUI Lawyer as Soon as Possible!

If you are pulled over for a DUI check and you refuse to take the field sobriety test, you may still be charged. At this point, your first action should be to contact an experienced Orangeburg DUI lawyer to start building your defense.

Do not leave anything to chance when it comes to DUI or DWI charges, because being sentenced can turn your life upside down. Call us today at 803-353-1969 to schedule a free case evaluation!