Can I Challenge a Field Sobriety Test in a DUI Case?

Published: Aug 01, 2016, by admin in Criminal Defense, DUI, Legal Blog

We all have a mental image of a typical field sobriety test – a man or woman walking in a straight line, someone balancing on one foot while touching the tip of their nose, or a police officer asking someone to say the alphabet backward. However, field sobriety tests aren’t like they appear in the movies. There are standards for how these tests should be administered and graded by the police.

If you were pulled over for a DUI and given a nonstandard test or graded differently than is required, you may be able to challenge the admissibility of the results of that test in court. You can also challenge the results if you believe they are unreliable due to a medical condition, prescribed medication, or another issue like fatigue.

To learn more about field sobriety tests and if you were treated fairly, contact the Chicago criminal defense attorneys of O’Meara Law at 312-909-0706.

What are Field Sobriety Tests?

There is a lot of confusion out there about field sobriety tests and their purpose. In general, they are a type of psychophysical test which police use to find clues of physical or mental impairment. You’ll be asked to perform certain actions that can show whether you are physically or mentally impaired. For instance, you may be asked to stand still and follow the top of a pen or other object with your eyes without moving your head. This is known as the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, during which the police look at your voluntary and involuntary eye movement.

The theory behind field sobriety tests is that if you are too impaired to perform simple actions, you are too impaired to drive. However, many professionals believe these tests are awkward and allow for the police to find evidence of impairment when there is none. For instance, the HGN test is well-regarded, but people with medical conditions could do poorly on this test without being impaired.

Standardized Testing

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration created standards for the types of tests police should give during field sobriety testing, how police should administer the tests, how the driver’s actions should be interpreted, and whether the results should lead to an arrest or not. However, those standards are not always followed. Additionally, police officers sometimes use tests that are not standard due to personal preferences.

If you were given a field sobriety test, you should discuss with your attorney what it was and how it was administered. There may be evidence that it was an unstandardized test. Any evidence from this test that the police used to arrest you may not be admissible in court. Without this evidence, there may be little to no proof of impaired driving.

Field Sobriety Tests are Voluntary

With all of the questions surrounding field sobriety tests, it’s important for drivers to know that these tests are voluntary. If the police ask you to step out of the car, you must follow this direction. However, if the police ask you to perform other actions for field sobriety tests, you can calmly and politely say that you do not consent to taking any field sobriety tests. Keep in mind that the officer can still arrest you for a DUI, but he or she will not have additional evidence against you. If you do take one or more field sobriety tests, it will be harder to have this evidence ruled inadmissible or to fight it in court.

How The Chicago DUI Defense Attorneys Can Help

Field sobriety tests are controversial, and their results are questionable. If you were arrested for a DUI after performing a field sobriety test, call the Chicago criminal defense attorneys of O’Meara Law at 312-909-0706 to learn how you can challenge this evidence in court.