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Are field sobriety tests accurate?

On Behalf of | Apr 19, 2024 | Driving While Intoxicated |

If you get pulled over by the police on suspicion of drunk driving, the officer may ask you to get out of the car and perform field sobriety tests. These could include the walk-and-turn test or the one-leg stand. The goal of the tests is to give you complicated instructions or physical tasks and see if you can complete them or if you are too impaired to do so.

However, this is a very inexact science. Studies have found that the results are not all that conclusive, and field sobriety tests may only get it right roughly two-thirds of the time. In the other cases, there is certainly a chance that someone could fail the test and get arrested, even if they hadn’t been drinking – if they’re feeling sick, for example, or if they have certain mental or physical impairments.

What about breath tests?

To counter the issue with field sobriety tests, police officers will often use breath tests to measure a person’s blood alcohol concentration. These can be more conclusive because they are viewed as a scientific type of evidence, rather than a judgment call.

But even a breath test can be wrong. Perhaps you used mouthwash with alcohol that triggered the test. Maybe the test itself wasn’t calibrated, so the eventual reading was too high. Maybe the police officer who gave you the test wasn’t trained and didn’t do it correctly. All of these issues could mean that even failing a breath test doesn’t guarantee that the court will convict you. 

There are many reasons why people get falsely arrested on drunk driving allegations. If this happened to you, you need to know what legal defense options you have.