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Are Dui Field Sobriety Tests Reliable?

On Behalf of | Mar 16, 2023 | DUI Defense |

Police who patrol the streets and highways in and around Ashland are trained to gather evidence of DUI during a traffic stop. A big part of this process is to have the motorist perform field sobriety tests, which have been standard police procedure for decades.

But do field sobriety tests really prove if someone is too drunk to drive? Or do they sometimes lead to false arrests for drinking and driving?

The Standardized Field Sobriety Tests Are Not Perfect

The standardized field sobriety tests that virtually all police departments use are the walk-and-turn test, one-leg-stand test and horizontal-gaze-nystagmus test (aka the HGN test), which has the subject follow a pen, finger or other object with their eyes. According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the HGN test most reliably determines impairment but only does so 77 percent of the time. In other words, the HGN produces a false positive or negative result about one time out of four.

Meanwhile, the walk-and-turn test works about 68 percent of the time, and the one-leg stand is about 65 percent accurate. Correct most of the time, but wrong often enough that neither of them should be the sole justification to make an arrest. Indeed, it is possible to fail field sobriety tests for reasons unrelated to drugs or alcohol. For example, the road you are standing or walking on could be uneven, or you could have a disability that affects your balance and coordination.

Don’t Give Up

Getting arrested for DUI is bad, but it does not mean you will automatically be convicted or forced to plead guilty. You have rights and could have options to fight to get the charges reduced or dismissed.