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4 problems with DUI field sobriety testing

On Behalf of | Jun 25, 2019 | DUI

Field sobriety testing is a method police officers may use to find out if a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It is a test the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration developed.

Different types of field sobriety tests in Pennsylvania include the walk-and-turn, horizontal gaze and one-leg stand test. It is not mandatory to comply with field sobriety tests, although you may face penalties for doing so. An officer cannot charge you for refusing a field test.

It is not scientific

The more you know about field sobriety tests in Pennsylvania, the better you can protect your rights. Unlike a breath or blood test, a field sobriety test does not rely on science to determine someone’s intoxication. Instead, it uses unscientific and often inaccurate visual cues.

It is subjective

Whether a person passes or fails a field sobriety test is almost entirely up to the officer administering the test. It is not a scientific measurement of a person’s level of inebriation. It is a visual type of test that is entirely subjective based on the administering officer.

It is easy to administer incorrectly

The NHTSA reports the walk-and-turn test is 79% accurate, the one-leg stand test is 83% accurate and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test is 77% accurate. However, these percentages are only correct if the officer properly administers the field sobriety test. Even minor mistakes could lead to someone “failing” the test.

It is easy to fail, even while sober

Rather than using a scientifically proven method to show the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a field sobriety test looks at the person’s physical abilities. This makes them easy to fail for someone with a disability, injury, poor balance, mental health problem or even just bad nerves. It is unfair that a failing field sobriety test for reasons unrelated to intoxication could lead to a DUI charge.