The Many Faults of Field Sobriety Tests in Denton
Law Enforcement agencies in North Texas routinely use field sobriety tests to determine if someone is intoxicated. However, there are known issues with many of these tests that question their validity.
Commonly Used Field Sobriety Tests:
A standard field sobriety test consists of three separate assessments:
- The Stand on One Leg Test: You will be asked to stand on one leg for about 30 seconds while the officer assesses whether you are able to maintain balance or not.
- The Walk-And-Turn Test: You will be asked to walk heel to toe in a straight line and then turn around and walk back towards the officer.
- The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: The officer will hold an object close to your face and tell you to keep your eyes on it as they move the object in front of your face while they study your eye movement.
During each of these tests, the law enforcement officer will examine your ability to follow commands, your balance, coordination, and any other signs that indicate you may be impaired.
Major Faults With DWI Sobriety Tests
If you fail one of these tests, it can lead to being arrested for a DWI charge. However, many issues and questions have been raised about the validity and accuracy of these sobriety tests.
A major concern with these tests is their reliability and potential for errors. The HGN (Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus) test is considered to be the best test but its accuracy level is ranked less than 80%. This is an obvious cause for concern as more than 1 out of 5 tests could be incorrect and DWI charges could be incorrectly applied.
Another problem with field sobriety tests is the way that they are administered. The officer’s lack of training or human error during an assessment may lead to false results of the tests.
If a driver has medical issues or mental/physical handicaps, it may prevent accurate results from being achieved from the tests. An officer has a duty to inquire about these conditions before having you submit to any sobriety tests. If this isn’t done, it could lead to an officer thinking a driver is impaired when in fact they are not.
Why are Field Sobriety Tests Almost Always “Failed?”
A very alarming estimate indicates that 1/3 of sober individuals will fail sobriety test due to a variety of reasons. In addition to the reasons already listed, there are other factors that can lead to a failed sobriety test:
There is no way to get around the fact that being asked to perform field sobriety tests can be an anxiety causing experience. Being anxious can cause a lot of physical symptoms such as muscle tension, shakiness, and other movements. These displays of anxiousness can be misread by the officer administering the test and could lead them to believe you are under the influence.
Driving for long periods of times can cause a driver to experience fatigue. Just like anxiety, being in this condition can cause muscle tension that can prevent you from staying balanced or walking in a straight line. There are also certain medications that can cause these same side effects. The arresting officer may interpret this as a sign that you are intoxicated.
Not Following Instructions Correctly
This can happen when there are loud noises in the area (on the side of a busy road) and you are unable to hear the instructions being explained or if the instructions are delivered in a confusing or unclear way. If a mistake is made in these situations, the officer may take your inability follow instructions as a sign of intoxication.
Fighting A Failed Sobriety Test In Court
There are many field sobriety experts some of which are former law enforcement that challenge the methods that are used to determine if a driver is intoxicated. The amount of discretion that the officer has and the amount of subjectivity to the tests can lead to conclusions that are incorrect.
If you are looking at DWI charges in Denton County or the surrounding area following a failed field sobriety test, it is in your best interest to retain the representation from an experienced and skilled Denton DWI Attorney to fight for your rights every step of the way. Attorney Daniel K. Peugh has handled hundreds of DWI defense cases in Denton County and his office is standing by to help.
Experienced DWI Defense Serving North Texas