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How accurate are field sobriety tests?

On Behalf of | Jan 22, 2024 | General Questions |

Before the police can arrest you for driving under the influence, they need articulable evidence that gives rise to probable cause. In other words, they simply can’t arrest you on a whim or a hunch. They need observations that indicate that the elements of the crime have likely been committed.

In the drunk driving context, one way the police gather this evidence is through field sobriety tests. But are these tests as accurate as the police and prosecutors portray them to be?

How accurate are field sobriety tests?

Field sobriety tests can be riddled with inaccuracies. In fact, some studies show that the horizontal gaze nystagmus test is the most reliable, but it still carries a 23% error rate. The one leg stand test has an error rate of 35%.

Why are field sobriety tests so inaccurate? There are several reasons, including:

  • Officers may give poor instructions on how to perform the test.
  • Officer observations may be inaccurate.
  • Law enforcement may fail to take a driver’s medical conditions into consideration when rendering their opinion on how the driver performed on the test.
  • The driver’s physical condition and what they’re wearing may not be considered.
  • The ground on which the test is being given is uneven, thus skewing the results.
  • Failure to consider how poor weather conditions impact the test and its results.

If any of these factors came into play in your field sobriety test and subsequently led to your arrest, then you need to be prepared to argue them in court. That way, you have a chance at showing that your arrest and your charges were improperly carried out.

Know how to build a strong DUI case

A DUI conviction can throw your life into chaos, but you don’t have to let it do so. Instead, you can work to build an aggressive DUI defense that protects your rights and your future. If you need help doing that, then consider your options for learning more and crafting the persuasive arguments you need on your side.


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