Some Common Flaws With Field Sobriety Tests

When officers suspect that someone has been driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they need to establish “probable cause” in order to make an arrest and collect a blood or breath test sample that can be submitted as evidence against the accused. In order to establish probable cause, officers frequently employ field sobriety tests, which are established methods of testing which are reasonably accurate when it comes to identifying those who are intoxicated. While years of study and refinement have made these tests more accurate than ever before, officers don’t want you to know that they’re still far from perfect and actually suffer from several deep flaws that could lead to false positives and wrongful arrests.

To help you better understand these tests and identify if your test results may have been skewed by one of these flaws, our Birmingham DUI attorney takes a look at a few of the most common mistakes or errors that could lead to false results.

Field Sobriety Tests Are Subjective

While study and repetition has led to field sobriety tests becoming more and more scientific and objective, there is still a high degree of subjectivity to these tests that will always exist. In other words, “probable cause” is still established by an officer’s opinion, and that opinion could be flawed in many ways. Humans are not perfect, and that means confirmation bias may come into play, which essentially means an officer who subconsciously wants to see someone be guilty will often spot “evidence” of guilt, whether it’s actually there or not in order to confirm their own biases.

As a citizen, overcoming this bias is extremely important in order to protect your rights and ensure you receive a fair trial. If you feel as though you were unfairly discriminated against by your arresting officer, speak with a Birmingham DUI lawyer as soon as possible and provide as much detail as possible about your case, as it could lead to the evidence against you being thrown out.

Mouth Alcohol

Breathalyzer tests are the most non-invasive method of collecting a fairly accurate blood alcohol level, but a breathalyzer can’t tell the difference between a breath that comes from deep in the lungs or alcohol that may be unabsorbed and still in the subject’s mouth. Alcohol that hasn’t been absorbed in the subject’s blood can’t inhibit their ability to drive, and thus someone may fail a breathalyzer test while not actually being inebriated.

When someone is arrested, officers are required to wait a designated period of time before collecting a breath sample, usually about 15 minutes or so, in order to allow for any mouth alcohol to be absorbed into the blood stream. However, sometimes this protocol isn’t followed, skewing the results.

Field Sobriety Tests Are Difficult

When you’re pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence, it’s not at all uncommon to become nervous, even if you haven’t had a drop of alcohol that night. Nervous twitches could be mistaken for lack of muscle control in the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, a sign of intoxication that may prompt officers to investigate further. Likewise, the walk-and-turn test or one-leg-stand are both difficult to complete, even while completely sober. In fact, a high number of people can’t even pass these tests just on a regular basis, let alone while drunk.

Add in the difficulty of these tests with a live, side-of-the-road environment and you have all sorts of things that could go wrong and skew the results away from reliability or accuracy.

The best thing to do if you’ve been arrested and charged with driving under the influence is reach out to an attorney at Tidwell Law Group, LLC! Call us today at (205) 536-7770 to request more information or a case evaluation to get started on building your defense.