Field sobriety tests are used so that police officers can determine if they think someone may be impaired. They are a form of evidence, and can sometimes be used in court. They may lead to the use of a breath test if the officer thinks that the driver is impaired because they failed the tests.
The trouble with field sobriety tests, though, is their accuracy. Someone who is completely sober could fail the test and be arrested, even though they’ve done nothing wrong. How could this happen?
The walk-and-turn test
There are three different tests that police use, including one test that tracks eye movement and another that judges balance. But the walk-and-turn test is one of the most well-known, simply requiring a driver to walk in a straight line to a certain point, turn around and come back to the officer.
But a driver could fail this test for many reasons. Say that they don’t understand the instructions completely because English is not their native language. The officer thinks that they aren’t comprehending the instructions because they are impaired. Or perhaps the driver stumbles or trips due to an injury, a disability or just fatigue after a long day. The officer may again think that that person is intoxicated and not in control of their body, but there are other issues at play.
Plus, at the end of the day, field sobriety tests are a judgment call. The officer has to use their judgment about whether or not the driver failed the test, and they could just get it wrong. For these reasons and many more, it’s quite important for those who are facing drunk driving accusations to understand all of their criminal defense options.