Aggressive Representation

Are field sobriety tests accurate?

On Behalf of | Sep 29, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Louisiana police officers who are performing a traffic stop when they suspect someone of chemical impairment typically have to gather evidence to build a case. One of the ways to establish whether someone may be under the influence requires the motorist to perform certain tasks so that officers can gauge signs of chemical intoxication.

Louisiana police officers can use standardized field sobriety tests as a way to evaluate the likelihood that someone is under the influence and to secure the probable cause they need to request chemical testing and arrest someone. Officers may leap to a conclusion about someone’s chemical state based on how they perform on those tests. Yet field sobriety tests are not always accurate.

False positives are possible during field sobriety testing

While law enforcement professionals might try to assert that field sobriety testing is highly accurate, that isn’t always true. Field sobriety testing is a very valuable screening tool that can expand the state’s understanding of the situation, but failing field sobriety tests will not automatically mean that someone has actually violated impaired driving rules.

There are a number of reasons why people might incur false positive test results on any of the standardized field sobriety tests. Both the one-leg stand test and the walk-and-turn test put those with musculoskeletal or neurological conditions at a disadvantage, as their issues with balance or gait might make them seem intoxicated to a police officer. There are also conditions that might affect how someone’s eyes respond during the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.

Even mental health issues, like anxiety, could theoretically influence someone’s performance if they become incredibly anxious during the testing process. Therefore, field sobriety tests on their own usually aren’t sufficient to ensure someone’s conviction unless someone performing a test also openly admits to intoxication during the testing process. Any evidence could be subject to a challenge.

There are numerous reasons why people seek to challenge or undermine different types of evidence when facing operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) charges in Louisiana. An individual’s attorney providing medical explanations for their performance on roadside testing is one way of challenging or undermining the evidence the state intends to use in a DUI case.

Discussing what occurred prior to someone’s arrest with an attorney could help a driver accused of intoxication pursue the most effective defense strategy available given their situation.