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Are field sobriety tests accurate?

On Behalf of | Aug 31, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Field sobriety tests are often administered when a police officer believes that a driver is under the influence of alcohol. Field sobriety tests can help to demonstrate impairment prior to an arrest and subsequent breath or blood test. The idea is that a driver who struggles to complete these tests – or who fails them outright – is too impaired to be behind the wheel.

Because these tests are used to make arrests and can even be used as evidence of impairment, one would think that they would be very accurate. But are they? Or could you fail the field sobriety tests even if you are completely sober?

Known accuracy issues

The reality is that these tests are not nearly as accurate as many people believe. There are three main tests that the police use. Their accuracy ratings are as follows:

  1. Horizontal gaze nystagmus – 77%
  2. The walk and turn – 68%
  3. The one-leg stand – 65%

Interestingly, when police officers use all three tests at once, then their accuracy rating is the highest: 82%. Officers do not typically use other field tests anymore, such as asking people to recite the alphabet from the end to the beginning.

This 82% may sound like a positive outcome because police are getting the correct answer most of the time. But 82% is actually rather concerning. For every 10 drivers that the police arrest on suspicion of impairment due to field test results alone, two of them are sober.

What options do you have?

There are many different reasons why field sobriety tests could be inaccurate. Maybe a police officer fails to explain the test properly. Maybe it’s dark outside and so it’s difficult to complete these tests on the side of the road. Maybe a driver has an ear infection and that is affecting their balance. Police officers can make an arrest after using these field tests, but that doesn’t mean that the results can necessarily be trusted.

As such, it’s quite important for everyone to understand their legal options. Just because you were arrested doesn’t mean you will be convicted, nor does a failed test guarantee that conviction. Seeking legal guidance can help to better ensure that your interests remain protected as you navigate this challenging situation.

Ramos & Del Cueto, can provide experienced and dedicated assistance if you find yourself in need of help. Call 210-761-6004 or use the form below to contact our firm immediately.