Protecting Your Rights Throughout Eastern Iowa Since 1981

The problem with field sobriety testing

On Behalf of | May 24, 2024 | Drunk Driving

Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are familiar to a lot of people from watching television police shows and dramas. They’re supposedly designed to help officers assess a suspected drunk driver’s sobriety or level of impairment. When drivers fail them, that usually quickly leads to further investigations and subsequent arrests for drunk driving. 

Here’s the thing: You’re under no obligation to submit to field sobriety testing when asked – because they’re not considered conclusive evidence of anything as far as the courts are concerned, so they’re strictly voluntary.

FSTs are deeply flawed

The three standard field sobriety tests are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, the Walk-and-Turn (WAT) test, and the One-Leg Stand (OLS) test. One way or another, they’re designed to measure a driver’s ability to follow instructions, balance, demonstrate normal coordination and show their focus and alertness.

Here’s why that’s such a problem:

  • The whole test is subjective. Police officers are human with human biases, and they may consciously or subconsciously be unfair when assessing the results of a test.
  • Balance, concentration and alertness can all be affected by everything from fatigue from a long day at the office to low blood sugar or an undiagnosed inner ear condition. 
  • The testing conditions aren’t exactly ideal when it comes to helping a driver focus or follow instructions. They may be scared, intimidated by the officer, afraid of the traffic rushing around and nervous, all of which affect their abilities.

It’s important to remember that your voluntary submission to these tests just takes you one step closer to drunk driving charges – and you’re better off politely declining.