Proven Representation

Photo of Jeff Meadows and Catherine Ritzmann
Photo of Jeff Meadows and Catherine Ritzmann
Photo of Jeff Meadows and Catherine Ritzmann
Proven Representation

Field sobriety tests and challenges

On Behalf of | Sep 23, 2021 | DUI / OVI

DUI laws give police officers the right to pull a suspected drunk driver over to test them for impairment. Officers commonly use field sobriety tests to check the driver for impairment, but a driver in West Chester Township, Ohio, can challenge the test outcome.

Overview of field sobriety tests

While officers can choose several tests, there are three standard field sobriety tests that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has deemed effective. The research to determine effective tests corresponded with many states setting the legal BAC, or blood alcohol content, at 0.08.

The walk-and-turn test requires the driver to walk an imaginary straight line, turn on one leg and repeat in the other direction. The horizontal gaze nystagmus tests for jerking eye movements by instructing the driver to follow an object, such a finger. The one-leg stand test requires the driver to stand on one leg and count for several seconds to check balance.

Challenges to field sobriety tests

The accuracy of field sobriety tests to check for DUI has long been debated since certain factors may influence results. A defendant may cite weather or terrain as a challenge because rain, snow or uneven pavement can throw off the balance of a sober driver. The lighting in the area may interfere with the vision of the driver.

The officer must perform the tests following the guidelines of the NHTSA, give clear instructions and not use nonstandard tests. If the officer used other tests, such as counting backwards, or gave confusing instructions, then the results may get thrown out.

Certain physical and medical conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, can make the tests harder for drivers. Sometimes, mental conditions cause the driver to get confused, and even anxiety itself can skew results.

If a driver fails field sobriety tests, they may be required to take chemical tests. While drivers commonly face no consequences for refusing field sobriety tests, they can face penalties for refusing Breathalyzers. Drivers who are accused of DUI or other offenses should consider all their legal options.