CAN LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS REQUIRE FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS AND ARE THOSE TESTS RELIABLE?
If you’re stopped by a law enforcement officer who believes that you’re intoxicated or impaired, they may ask you to take field sobriety tests. Those tests are not required, but if you refused them, you may be arrested based on your actions or other behaviors. The officer may claim that you were driving recklessly, for example, or ask you to go to the police station for further questioning.
The problem with field sobriety testing is that it’s not very accurate. When an officer asks you to perform those tests, they are solely doing so to try to see if you are impaired. They want to gather evidence that can be used later in court to justify their traffic stop and confirm their suspicions.
Are Field Sobriety Tests Reliable?
When given by a properly trained professional and in combination, these tests are fairly reliable, but they still have faults. When using the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, one-legged standing test and the walk-and-turn field test, the results are around 82% accurate.
The bigger issue with these tests is that there are many health conditions and issues that may result in a person failing them. For example, someone who has balance issues may not be able to do the one-leg stand without using their hands to balance. Someone with a neurological condition might struggle to do a walk-and-turn test without falling or wobbling. They could fail the HGN test because their eyes don’t move the way others’ do.
Overall, field sobriety tests are not proven to be a reliable method to base a DUI charge on. However, in combination with a Breathalyzer test that has come up positive, they could be used to further confirm the officer’s suspicions and to build a case against you.
If you are asked to perform field sobriety tests, you can refuse. If it’s for a medical reason, you have a right to explain that. However, remember that the officer may end up arresting you anyway. If that happens, it’s smart to call your attorney and begin working on a defense against the charges you could be facing.