Law enforcement agencies across the country, including here in North Carolina, use field sobriety tests (FSTs) as a preliminary testing method after pulling over a suspected drunk driver. These are the tests that you see in movies or on television, which may involve standing balanced on one foot, walking in a straight line heel to toe, or following a moving object (like the officer’s finger or a pen) with one’s eyes.
While the three tests mentioned above are endorsed as “standard” by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, they are far from foolproof. In fact, there are numerous reasons that a person could fail these tests, some of which have nothing to do with alcohol. In today’s post, we’ll discuss three reasons for failing FSTs.
Suffering A Health Condition or Poor Coordination
FSTs are primarily tests of physical coordination. But some people remain very coordinated when drunk and others are very uncoordinated even when sober. If you suffer from a medical condition that impacts your sense of balance or causes muscle weakness, for instance, you could easily fail an FST.
Getting pulled over by a cop is stressful, and being asked to take a test (even a relatively easy test) further heightens that stress. Another fact that many people don’t know is that alcohol consumption can lead to feelings of anxiety when sobering up and for a period of time after getting sober. Therefore, if you were drinking moderately and waited until you were sober before driving home, you could already be feeling anxious before seeing flashing lights in your rearview mirror. Anxiety leads to poor test performance for many people.
Very Poor Testing Conditions
A field sobriety test would be easy for many people to pass if it were administered in a well-lit room, on flat ground and in a quiet environment. But conditions out in the “field” are usually the exact opposite of this. FSTs are often conducted at night, on the side of a busy and loud road with cars driving by. You may get headlights shining in your eyes. You may have difficulty hearing and understanding the directions. You may be embarrassed by the fact that everyone can see you are suspected of drunk driving. Whether you are totally sober or have only consumed moderate amounts of alcohol, most people could reasonably fail an FST under these conditions.
Speak To A Lawyer
If you’ve been charged with drunk driving, the evidence against you may not be as strong as it looks. Before deciding how to proceed, please discuss your rights and legal options with an experienced criminal defense attorney.