Field Sobriety Tests

On Behalf of | May 3, 2022 | Blog, Criminal Law

Going to jail for impaired driving is never an enjoyable experience, but it gets even worse when arrested under questionable impairment conditions. This happens in Massachusetts more often than many residents realize, and it is often based on borderline to weak evidence given that there is no method of accurate testing that has yet to be adopted by the court other than a mechanical BAC reading. Decisions to arrest are often made based on the results of a field sobriety test, which can be highly arguable when the case goes to court due to mistakes in administration.

Eye test

One common component of a field sobriety test is the horizontal gaze nystagmus, also known as the eye response test. Officers will shine a flashlight into the driver’s eyes while they are instructed to move their focus from one side to the other. This test requires significant training for officers, and many times the movement can be mistakenly evaluated when the officer is eager to arrest the suspect for DUI.

Walk-and-turn test

Another test will require the suspect to walk ten steps heel-to-toe and then turn while standing still. They then will be asked to walk ten steps back to the starting point in the same heel-to-toe fashion. This test makes no allowance for those who may have walking impediments, often resulting in a DWI.

Standing on one leg

Another test that officers routinely include in addition to the walk-and-turn test is requesting the suspect to stand on one leg. This too can be problematic for those with mobility issues because officers commonly do not allow for any disability as an excuse for poor performance.

These are the basic components of a field sobriety test for most drivers, all of which are clearly fallible to some degree. Additionally, officers may use a field breathalyzer, but these results only provide reasonable suspicion and cannot be used as probable cause evidence.