Field Sobriety Tests Are Not Always Reliable
In South Carolina, law enforcement must record every field sobriety test they conduct. There are three tests that are typically administered in accordance to guidelines outlined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Those tests include the following:
- An eye test, during which an officer looks at eye movement to look for signs of impairment
- A one-legged stand, which assesses how well a suspect can balance
- A walk-and-turn, which requires the suspect to take nine steps in a straight line
The NHTSA acknowledges that failing just one of these tests does not necessarily indicate guilt. The organization does state that having trouble on them usually means that the suspect is intoxicated. However, experienced attorneys know that there are several factors that will affect the outcomes of these tests.
Numerous studies have shown that there is a link between certain medical conditions and a person’s ability to complete a field sobriety test. For example, someone with an inner ear injury could have trouble balancing on one leg and walking a straight line. Similarly, people who have joint or back problems may not perform well on these tests.
Extreme temperatures or weather can play a role in detracting from a suspect’s ability to balance and walk a straight line. If the weather is windy, dirt or dust could blow in drivers’ eyes and affect their performance. Additionally, roads that are cracked or uneven will pose a problem during the walk-and-turn test.
One of the biggest issues with field sobriety testing is that it does not rely on scientific evidence but rather a law enforcement officer’s perception. It is possible that an officer could be biased in making a decision regarding how well or poorly someone does on a test. Fortunately, South Carolina does videotape these events. However, someone who is wrongly accused of failing a sobriety test may still face an arrest, detainment and other inconveniences.
There are a number of other factors that could affect someone’s ability to do well on a field sobriety test. For example, some people simply are not very coordinated and may have difficulty walking heel-to-toe and balancing on one leg. It is very possible to fail these tests without having any alcohol in your system.
Our attorneys at Nosal & Jeter, LLP have seen how inaccurate field sobriety tests and even breath tests can be. We understand the serious implications of a DUI charge and conviction, which is why we work hard to get charges reduced or dismissed. Allow us to help you navigate the legal system and understand your rights.