You get pulled over on your drive home, and the police officer clearly suspects that you’ve been drinking or are impaired by drugs. You know you’re just tired, and that caused you to make a bad move in traffic.
Since you haven’t been drinking or doing drugs, should you go ahead and comply with the request for roadside testing? No, you really shouldn’t. No matter what, you can fail those tests far too easily.
Even in ideal conditions, roadside sobriety testing is failure-prone
There are three basic roadside sobriety tests: the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk-and-turn test, and the one-legged stand test. Even using all three together in a controlled environment, officers were only correct in their interpretation 82% of the time. That accuracy rate drops quite a bit when only one test is used, down to 65% for the one-legged stand test.
Even worse, in real-world situations, an officer’s error rate when assessing the results of these tests is about 47%. That means that almost half the people who are accused of intoxication after one of these tests are actually sober.
What’s the problem? Well, first of all, the anxiety and stress caused by getting out of your car at the side of the road for these tests can make it hard to concentrate on an officer’s instructions. That’s a signal to the officer you’re impaired.
Second, there are literally dozens of medical conditions that can cause you to fail one or all of these tests. The fatigue that led to the traffic stop can make it hard for you to focus your eyes properly. A sinus infection or an inner ear problem can make it hard to balance. If you’re overweight or over 40, you may have spinal or joint issues that make it impossible to walk perfectly straight or stand on one leg.
In short, there’s no legal requirement to submit to these tests. If the officer genuinely believes they have enough reasonable suspicion for a breath alcohol test, let them proceed with that. If they don’t, you’ll be free to go. If they do, hopefully, the test will give accurate results, and you’ll be free to go.
If you are arrested on drunk driving charges, fairly or not, it’s wise to seek legal guidance as soon as you can.