Are you a legal professional? Visit our professional site

3 Ways to Challenge Field Sobriety Tests

Article Placeholder Image
By Brett Snider, Esq. on May 02, 2013 10:08 AM

If you've been pulled over for a DUI, a key to your defense may be challenging your field sobriety test.

With the option to refuse chemical tests for alcohol while pulled over, the field sobriety test may be the main piece of evidence against you when facing a DUI charge.

Here are three potential ways to contest a field sobriety test:

1. Flaws in the Test.

A field sobriety test or "FST" typically is made up of three different tests:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus. This test involves looking for involuntary jerking of your eyes and the inability to smoothly follow an object left and right with your eyes.
  • Walk and turn. You will be asked to take nine steps in a straight line, walking heel to toe. Then you must turn on a single foot and walk back the same way.
  • One-leg stand. An officer requires you to stand on one leg and count until instructed to stop, while the officer looks for imbalance.

These tests can be challenged for their reliability in court, and some studies show that even when performed properly, the tests are only between 81% and 91% reliable in determining intoxication.

2. The Officer Failed to Perform Standard Tests Correctly.

You may also challenge whether the arresting officer executed the tests correctly in accordance with the guidelines set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Officers who ask DUI suspects to spell the alphabet backwards, touch their fingers to their noses, or use other non-standard tests may have this testimony challenged as unreliable to determine intoxication. In some states like Ohio, only the standard tests may be allowed into evidence.

3. The Officer Failed to Consider Your Physical or Mental Condition.

Many drivers who are subjected to a FST have a medical or psychological condition that will greatly skew the test results. Common problematic conditions include:

  • Inner ear infection/condition. This area of your ear helps you maintain equilibrium and balance, and damage or malfunction can cause you to fail the balance portions of the FST without any intoxication.
  • Neurological injury. Any sort of brain injury may be responsible for a false positive when checking for horizontal gaze nystagmus.
  • Skeletal or movement disorders. Many sober individuals cannot walk heel-to-toe due to issues with their feet, legs, spine and muscles. If the test did not take into account that the driver is severely pigeon toed, it should be challenged.

These are just three examples of potential challenges to field sobriety tests. If you are facing charges for driving under the influence, it's wise to contact an experienced DUI lawyer near you to see which defenses may work best for you.

Related Resources: