If law enforcement pulls you over on suspicion of operating under the influence of alcohol, you may consent to take the field sobriety tests.
If you did not consume an alcoholic beverage before getting behind the wheel, you feel confident you can pass the tests—but not so fast. At least a third of sober participants fail them.
About the tests
There are three tests in the Standardized Field Sobriety Test battery: the One-Leg Stand, the Walk and Turn and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test. In Massachusetts, law enforcement officers use these tests to determine whether to arrest a driver on suspicion of OUI. However, the tests are subjective. The officer who administers the tests may give the participant one score, but another officer might assign a different score entirely.
Why drivers can fail
Balance issues are common. A driver may fail the battery of tests due to a variety of factors including medication use, ear infections or low blood pressure. Anxiety makes passing the tests difficult, as do certain neurological conditions, inner ear problems and back, leg and foot issues.
What to do
Adding to the difficulties a driver might experience when taking the field sobriety tests is that the conditions are rarely ideal. Traffic noise, blinking squad car lights, uneven ground and other distractions make concentration difficult. You may be sober, but you may not pass the tests for a variety of reasons. Remember you have rights. If arrested, you can challenge the OUI charge. You can expect a thorough investigation into the circumstances and a defense strategy that will show exactly why you failed to pass the One-Leg Stand, the Walk and Turn or the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test.