Finding An Advocate

Two Ways Your DUI Defense Attorney Can Challenge A Field Sobriety Test Failure

If you were pulled over and questioned by an officer that suspected you'd been drinking, what if you admitted to a beer or glass of wine at dinner? After all, that was an hour or so ago, you're a grown adult, you ate with it, and what you drank didn't even make you tipsy, let alone drunk. You'll probably be asked to take a field sobriety test. What happens, then, when you fail it and get arrested? Is your case doomed? 

Relax. Not only is your case not doomed, there's still plenty of ways that your attorney can fight a DUI charge like this: Here are just two examples.

1.) You weren't physically fit enough to handle the field sobriety test.

Those "walk and turn" and "walk a straight line" tests have more to do with your powers of coordination and balance then they do your level of impairment. They aren't designed for anybody over the age of 50, nor are they made for people with balance problems caused by anything from arthritis in their knees to an ear infection. Even if you're significantly younger than 50, nerves, the pressure of the situation, and your personal health issues can all be factors that cause you to fail the test.

2.) The officer wasn't fit to judge the results of the tests.

It's also important to remember that the test is one person's opinion. The officer's skill in actually judging how well you perform the field sobriety tests is also an issue. How well was he or she trained? What certification does he or she have? How often has he or she performed the tests? What is his or her individual accuracy rating? Done correctly, under ideal conditions, all three tests together are supposed to be over 90% accurate—according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Done at the side of a road, with a suspect under high levels of stress, an officer who may be predisposed to make an arrest, the accuracy may be much lower.

Plus, did the officer actually base the arrest on your performance on all three or just a failure of one of the tests? Under the best conditions, the horizontal nystagmus test (where you're asked to follow the officer's pen, finger, or light) was only 77% accurate., the walk and turn test only 68% accurate, and the one-leg stand test a 65% accuracy. If the officer's track record with accuracy is less than impressive (or he or she doesn't even know how accurate he or she is), that's a good defense for your case.

For more information on how you can challenge a DUI case, talk to an attorney. DUI cases can be attacked on multiple levels from procedural errors to the scientific validity of the testing done. Don't assume your case is hopeless.