The goal of the field sobriety tests and why you may not pass

Griffin Law, PLLC
Jul 21, 2022

The Standardized Field Sobriety Test series consists of three different tests that law enforcement officers may ask you to take if they suspect you of drunk driving.

What is the ultimate goal of these tests and what may cause you to fail at least one of them?

About the field sobriety tests

If law enforcement pulls you over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated (DWI), you may undergo field sobriety testing. The three tests in this series include:

  • The one-leg stand
  • The walk-and-turn
  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus test

Reasons for failure

Testing by the side of the road on uneven ground with noisy traffic passing by may distract you. More importantly, you may have a medical condition—a leg injury, an inner ear condition, a herniated disc, low blood pressure—that will prevent you from passing one if not all of these tests. Keep in mind that officers should not ask drivers who are more than 50 pounds overweight or older than 65 to engage in field sobriety testing.

The defense strategy

The goal of testing is to give an officer just cause to make an arrest on suspicion of DWI. To begin with, the grading of field sobriety tests is subjective. The officers who grade your tests after watching the video may disagree on the score. Your defense attorney will examine all the evidence beginning with the less-than-ideal conditions under which you took the tests and whether the officers had sufficient training to conduct them. There could also be additional administrative errors. An investigation of the circumstances will help build your defense strategy. Officers may not have had probable cause to make the arrest and you have every right to expect the best outcome possible for your case.

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