Field sobriety tests are a series of tests performed to show that you have a good sense of balance, good reflexes and are coherent. These tests help officers decide if you’re intoxicated or under the influence of other substances.
The sad truth about field sobriety tests is that even sober people fail them. Once you fail, that failure is used as evidence against you, even if you weren’t under the influence at the time. Even if you end up with an all-clear for your sobriety, you’ll still have an arrest on your record.
Officially known as the Standardized Field Sobriety Test, there are actually three tests you have to pass. They include a one-leg stand, walk-and-turn and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus tests.
What’s the problem with field sobriety tests?
The major issue with these tests is how subjective they are. The officers may grade people differently based on their experiences or preconceived notions of what an intoxicated person looks like. In fact, when watching the same video, officers grading the same person have often disagreed about the scores given by others.
Another issue is that perfectly sober individuals could struggle with these tests. The reality is that not everyone has good balance. Some people have trouble with focusing or their gazes, making it hard to pass an HGN test. Depending on the person’s health, standing on one leg or walking in a straight line might be difficult, even when they’ve had nothing to drink.
Taking a field sobriety test is often a no-win situation. If you pass, you still need to take a breath test in many situations. If you fail, it’s used against you even if you’re sober. Keep that in mind. If you can avoid taking the field sobriety tests and opt into a breath test instead, that may be a better option.