Defense options when addressing field sobriety test evidence

On Behalf of | Aug 12, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

Police lights in a driver’ rear-view mirror often mean that the driver is required to stop and submit to questioning by a police officer. In Louisiana and throughout jurisdictions across the nation, many individuals feel apprehensive about encountering law enforcement officials on the roads. Particularly if a driver is stopped for suspected drunk driving may they experience worry and concern during their encounter.

Types of field sobriety tests

When a police officer stops a driver for suspected drunk driving, they will look for evidence of intoxication in the individual. They may ask the driver to submit to field sobriety testing to evaluate the driver’s ability to perform simple tasks based on coordination. Some of the most common field sobriety tests administered include:

  • One-Leg Stand: A person is asked to stand on one foot and lift the other foot off of the ground without losing their balance.
  • Walk-and-Turn: A person is asked to walk from one point to another and back without breaking stride or falling off balance from their path.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: A person is asked to gaze both eyes to one side as the officer evaluates their eyes for rapid and uncontrolled movement.

For a sober and healthy driver, these tests may pose few challenges. However, not all sober drivers on the roads are fully capable of completing these evaluations without problems. For example, drivers who suffer from illnesses or injuries may be unable to successfully perform these tests without showing balance or coordination issues that present similar to intoxication. Other problems that may throw off the results of field sobriety tests can include:

  • Medications for legitimate medical conditions or ailments
  • Tiredness
  • Uneven roads or shoulders where drivers are asked to perform their tests
  • Inexperienced law enforcement officers administering or interpreting tests
  • Weather conditions

Challenging a field sobriety test result

Facts and circumstances are important elements that can challenge seemingly damaging evidence and can change the course of drunk driving cases for affected parties. Just as the results of breathalyzer tests can be skewed by mistakes, wrongful calibrations, and other faulty testing factors, so too can the results or field sobriety tests be impacted by errors. A strong criminal defense advocate can help a drunk driving defendant build a case to protect their rights.

This post offers no legal advice and does not provide readers with recommendations on how to handle requests by law enforcement officers for them to participate in field sobriety tests. Drunk driving defendants can find and offer their own evidence of their innocence when confronted with arguments by prosecutors and can fight for their freedoms with the help of their attorneys.


FindLaw Network