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Family and Criminal Law Blog

Monday, July 25, 2022

Challenging Field Sobriety Test Results

If you are being charged with a DUI, some of the prosecution’s evidence may include field sobriety test results from when you were originally pulled over by law enforcement on suspicion of DUI. Testimony as to how you responded to the field sobriety tests can be compelling and help the prosecutor secure a DUI conviction against you. There are, however, several ways to effectively challenge field sobriety test results and, thus, undermine their credibility and the weight they are given in the courtroom.

Challenging Field Sobriety Test Results

If you have been pulled over for a DUI, you may have first-hand familiarity with some of the field sobriety tests that are administered. While some people may think you have to recite the alphabet backwards or touch your finger to the tip of your nose, these are not actually tests that are approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). There are only three standard tests approved by the NHTSA and they are the:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test: The law enforcement officer will ask you to follow an object left to right with your eyes. During administration of the test, the officer will be looking for any inability to smoothly follow the object and the involuntary jerking movement of the eyes.
  • One Leg Stand test: The law enforcement officer will ask you to stand on one leg and count until you are told to stop. During administration of the test, the officer will be looking for any signs of imbalance.
  • Walk and Turn test: The law enforcement officer will ask you to take nine steps, heel to toe, in a straight line and then you will have to turn on a single foot and walk the same way back. During administration of the test, the officer will be looking for any inability to follow directions and any signs of imbalance of instability.

While field sobriety tests can be instructive as to the state of sobriety or insobriety of a person, there are plenty of ways to challenge the results they yield. At baseline, even when the tests are properly administered, these tests have been shown to be not exactly 100 percent reliable. In fact, some studies show the reliability of these tests to effectively reveal a person to be intoxicated is only a little higher than 80 percent.

Should these tests be improperly administered, their reliability falls farther still. The NHTSA has established very specific guidelines for how these tests are to be administered. Should the officer deviate from these guidelines, it will be an important thing to highlight to undermine the reliability of the test’s results.

The reliability of the field sobriety test’s results can also be challenged if the officer failed to consider any relevant physical or mental conditions in administering the test and noting the results. There are a number of conditions that can adversely impact the results of a field sobriety test. For instance, you may have had an inner ear infection or condition that impacted your equilibrium and, subsequently, your ability to balance. Alternatively, a person may have a neurological injury or physical impairment that impacts their ability to effectively comply with the directions of the field sobriety test.

Family Law Attorneys

Charged with a DUI? The team at Navarrete & Schwartz is prepared to fight for you. We are proud to serve the residents of West Texas. Contact us today.


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