Most of us have seen a drunk driving suspect undergoing field sobriety tests, whether on TV or on the side of the road. While these tests are supposed to detect inebriation, it is possible for a perfectly sober person to fail one. Here are three reasons you may fail the tests without a drop of alcohol in your system.
You have a medical problem
Medical problems that affect your ability to balance can disrupt your ability to perform a field sobriety test. Such conditions may include:
- Inner ear infections
- Muscle tremors
Eye impairments and neurological disorders may also affect your ability to perform a test, the horizontal gaze nystagmus exercise in particular. You may see well enough to drive, but this does not mean you can reliably perform this test, which requires precise control of the eye muscles.
Even something as commonplace as having a cold or the flu could make it difficult – if not impossible – to pass a field sobriety test. Being unable to balance on one leg or complete the eye test is not proof that you are drunk.
You are fatigued
When a police officer pulls over a person for suspected drunk driving, that person may have been driving for ten minutes or ten hours. While it may be easy to walk and turn or stand on one leg under normal circumstances, this is not necessarily the case when a person has been sitting in a driving position for several hours. Leg cramps, pinched nerves, poor circulation and other circumstances may render you unable to perform the physical tasks required by a field sobriety test.
You didn’t understand the instructions
Perhaps nearby traffic made it difficult for you to hear the police officer. Maybe you have a hearing impairment or were feeling such strong anxiety that you couldn’t concentrate on the instructions. This is understandable given the shock of getting pulled over by the police and the high stakes involved in a potential OUI arrest. A police officer may not give you a second chance if you misheard or misunderstood the instructions for a field sobriety test. This definitely does not mean that you were driving under the influence, though.
Remember, a failed field sobriety test does not mean you are guilty of anything. You still have a strong chance to fight this charge and move on with your life with your criminal record intact.