Anthony M. Salerno

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Anthony M. Salerno

Attorney At Law

Failing field sobriety tests when sober

On Behalf of | Oct 12, 2016 | Criminal Defense

Is it possible to fail a field sobriety test if you are sober? Unfortunately, these tests are unreliable and it is indeed possible to fail them when you’re sober. If you are pulled over for suspected drunk driving, you may be asked by a police officer to complete one or more of these tests. By law, you can refuse to take any sobriety test except a breathalyzer — and you should.

What Are Field Sobriety Tests?

Field sobriety tests include the one-leg stand, the horizontal gaze nystagmus, and the walk and turn. The most common – and least reliable – is the one-leg stand. The police officer simply observes whether or not you can balance on one leg. Not only is this a grossly subjective test, but many people have poor balance due to inner ear problems, peripheral neuropathy, age, leg or back problems, anxiety over being pulled over, tiredness, or something else.

The walk and turn involves the officer testing your ability to follow instructions as she directs you to walk and turn around, etc. If you are tired, unable to hear due to traffic, or have had just one drink but remain sober, it is possible to fail this test. Like the one-leg stand it depends on subjective observation by the officer although it produces fewer false positives.

Horizontal gaze nystagmus is tested by the officer looking into your eyes to see if your eyes jerk back and forth. Nystagmus is common among those who have invisible illnesses, eye or ear disease, certain vitamin deficiencies, stroke, and other medical conditions. Again, it is possible to fail this test when you are sober.

Caution About Failing Field Sobriety Tests When Sober

Because they are so subjective and unreliable – especially the one-leg stand – you should politely refuse to complete a field sobriety test if you are pulled over for suspected drunk driving. If you fail a test, you will be arrested and charged with a DUI. Even if you are subsequently exonerated by taking a breathalyzer test, the arrest will remain on your record which can cause future problems related to your finances, employment, reputation and more.

If you are pulled over you must take a breathalyzer test if asked, but you do not have to take a field sobriety test. If you are arrested, speak with an attorney as soon as possible to help you fully understand your charges and your rights. An experienced lawyer will know how to find out whether the officer made errors during the arrest, and whether other details about your particular situation can help you fight your DUI charge. You have the right to legal representation and you should exercise it.