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How to challenge field sobriety tests

On Behalf of | Nov 16, 2023 | Dui

When a driver is stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol, the police may use field sobriety tests (FSTs) to assess balance, coordination and ability to pay attention to more than one task. The results of these tests can be used as evidence against the driver. But these tests are not always accurate.

You can contest their results. Here is how:

The officer failed to follow proper procedures

If an officer fails to perform a test correctly, the results may be inadmissible in court.  For example, if an officer fails to inform you to walk along a straight line when conducting a walk-and-turn test.

The officer conducted a non-standardized test

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recognizes Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), Walk and Turn, and One Leg Stand tests as standardized. These are the only tests whose validated clues have been identified.

Other tests besides the three are non-standardized. Police officers typically administer them, but the NHTSA has not validated them. Accordingly, you can challenge their results, especially if an officer fails to follow the proper procedures.

The officer didn’t consider your health condition 

Some physical and mental conditions can affect the accuracy of an FST. For example, the inner ear plays a crucial part in balance. If you have an ear condition or a cold that causes your ears to plug up, you may have issues with balance without intoxication.

Further, different factors, including inner ear disorders, strokes and brain injuries can lead to nystagmus (involuntary eye movements), which cause you to fail the HGN test.

If you inform an officer of your physical or mental condition, and they still conduct an FST, you can use this as your defense. If you are facing a DUI charge after failing an FST test, you should get legal help to defend yourself.