Field sobriety tests are physical challenges that drivers may be asked to perform if they are suspected of driving drunk on Alabama roads. These tests presumably assess the balance, coordination, and focus of selected drivers. If drivers do not perform well on these tests, law enforcement officials may use such results as evidence of intoxication for drunk driving arrests.
In theory, field sobriety tests make sense but unfortunately in practice, their execution is often flawed and marred by errors. This post will discuss some of the ways that field sobriety test evidence may be unreliable in drunk driving cases. This post should not be read as legal advice or used as case specific items. All individuals facing drunk driving charges are encouraged to speak with trusted criminal defense attorneys about their cases.
Officer error as a cause of field sobriety test unreliability
Law enforcement officials who execute field sobriety tests should be trained on how to set up, administer, and evaluate the results of those tests. Alabama offers trainings to law enforcement officials who execute field sobriety tests in the state. An officer who has not been trained to properly guide a driver through the steps of field sobriety assessments may in advertently set the driver up for failure and arrest for a wrongful drunk driving charge.
Physical conditions that may impact field sobriety test results
Part of the training that law enforcement officials may receive regarding the execution of field sobriety tests involves where it is appropriate to administer those assessments. For example, a driver who is asked to perform a balance test on a steep grade or uneven ground may struggle despite their sobriety. Any physical condition that may impact the results of field sobriety testing should be taken into account if such tests are used as evidence in a drunk driving case.
Physical condition of the driver
Finally, physical conditions present in a driver should be considered when field sobriety tests are used as evidence in their drunk driving case. For example, drivers with inherent balance issues may not be able to successfully perform the tests that are asked of them by law enforcement officials. If a driver suffers from a physical condition that may alter the results of their testing, those conditions should be made known during their drunk driving case.
There are many ways to challenge the results of field sobriety tests. A knowledgeable DUI defense lawyer can guide their client through these and other defense options when preparing for their drunk driving case.