Defenses to Roadside Field Sobriety Tests

If you’ve ever been pulled over for drunk driving, you may have been subjected to several tests that judge your sobriety – or lack thereof. You may have been asked to balance on one foot, to walk in a straight line, or to follow a pen or other object with your eyes. These are field sobriety tests, and they are often at issue in DUI cases, in which lawyers often employ defenses to roadside field sobriety tests.

All three of these tests – horizontal gaze nystagmus test, one-leg stand, and walk-and-turn test – are approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but they actually do little to determine if you’ve had too much to drink. They are far from 100 percent accurate, and they don’t take into consideration medical issues, environmental conditions, or other factors that could cause you to fail a test. Nonetheless, a failed field sobriety test may lead to DUI charges.

If this has happened to you, call O’Meara Law today at 312-909-0706 to learn how a Chicago DUI lawyer can minimize the effect of a failed field sobriety test on your case.

Common Defenses to Failed Field Sobriety Tests

Roadside field sobriety tests are not foolproof. In fact, their results are often affected by external elements. Below are some reasons you could fail a test, and some defenses to use in the courtroom.

  • Weather conditions. Wind, rain, and snow can all affect your test taking abilities. These tests are almost impossible to pass in inclement weather–regardless of your sobriety. If you failed a field sobriety test in inclement weather, your lawyer may be able to challenge the test result.
  • Terrain. Try walking in a straight line across uneven pavement or balancing on one leg while standing in a pothole or ditch. Puddles, slippery ice, or snow drifts can cause you to lose your balance while taking a field sobriety test. Tree branches and other random debris in the roadway can also cause you to lose your footing. In some cases, your lawyer may be able to attribute your failure to pass the field sobriety test to the conditions on the side of the road.
  • Medical conditions. Neurological and eye conditions can cause your eyes to twitch during a horizontal gaze nystagmus test. Arthritis, hip, and knee conditions can all cause you to walk haphazardly. Many people suffer from inner ear problems that cause poor balance. Spine and muscle issues, as well as a lack of coordination, can also result in a failed test. If you failed a field sobriety test, your Chicago DUI lawyer may attempt to prove that the failure was due to your medical condition as opposed to your intoxication.
  • Physical characteristics. Weight and age can affect performance. Many people cannot stay balanced on one foot for 30 seconds. Your lawyer may be able to demonstrate that your weight or age were the primary reasons why you failed a field sobriety test.
  • Flaws in the testing. No field sobriety test is 100 percent accurate in predicting intoxication. The walk-and-turn test is only 79 percent accurate. The one-leg stand test is only 83 percent accurate. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is 88 percent accurate. This means there are some flaws in the process. In many cases, the police officer does not administer them properly. In other cases, the police officer may even distort your test results. Your lawyer may be able to show that your test result was a fail because of the officer’s lack of training or bias.

Getting Legal Help for a DUI

While field sobriety tests are considered to be scientific, they are subjective in nature. It’s all based on what the police officer believes. It’s his word against yours. So, if you were told you failed a field sobriety test, it does not mean you will get a DUI conviction. There are many defenses your Chicago DUI defense attorney can use to preserve your rights and freedom. Former prosecutor Michael O’Meara has 20 years of experience helping people like yourself defend against DUI charges.

If you’ve been pulled over and arrested for DUI, schedule a free consultation with O’Meara Law today at 312-909-0706.