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The results of field sobriety tests may not be reliable

On Behalf of | Apr 29, 2021 | OWI |

Field sobriety tests are evaluative tools that law enforcement officers use to attempt to determine intoxication in drivers. They are utilized in Indiana and can be incredibly difficult to perform even by fully sober individuals. When a driver is arrested for OWI or another drunk driving crime based on the results of their field sobriety test, they may have grounds to challenge that evidence as unreliable.

What are field sobriety tests?

Field sobriety tests are evaluations that test the physical capabilities of drivers. They test drivers’ balance, coordination, and concentration. They also test drivers’ ability to follow directions. Common field sobriety tests include:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus: Driver is asked to focus their gaze to the side as the officer observes rapid eye movement.
  • Walk and turn: Driver is asked to walk in a straight line and turn, returning on the same line they used to walk out.
  • One leg stand: Driver is asked to lift one foot off the ground and hold their balance without setting the lifted foot down.

Just by learning about some of these tests, readers may notice the challenges in these evaluations. Not all sober drivers are capable of lifting their feet off the ground without having balance issues, and therein lies one of the problems with field sobriety testing: outside reasons for drivers’ inability to perform the tests.

Problems with test administration and evaluation

As mentioned, not all drivers may be able to perform their field sobriety tests even when sober. Whether due to their health or the physical conditions where they are asked to do them, walking and standing without losing one’s footing may be impossible. Just as drivers may be unable to perform the requested tests, officers may not be prepared to evaluate field sobriety testing if they lack the knowledge, experience, or training to do so.

Field sobriety tests are not without fault. They can be poorly administered and they do not always take into account the abilities of the tested drivers. When poor testing results in a driver’s arrest for OWI, they can seek the help of trusted criminal defense counselors from the Indianapolis firm of Kammen & Moudy.


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