Are Field Sobriety Tests Accurate?

Even as breathalyzer tests become more common when someone is pulled over after driving erratically, law enforcement officers might not always have the device on hand in service, or a suspect may end up refusing such a test. Therefore, many people arrested curbside for driving under the influence (DUI) are being judged based on to the results of field sobriety tests (FST).

Why Are Field Sobriety Tests Inaccurate?

Whereas breath, blood, and urine tests rely on chemical reactions and careful calculations by a computer to come to a conclusion, field sobriety tests are dependent on the observations of the arresting officer. When an officer is administering these tests, it is simply impossible not to let subjective opinions influence the results.

As many arrests take place on the side of the street at night, conditions are rarely optimal. The officer may face numerous distractions and might not even be able to see the suspect very well at all. In short, on top of having to come to a conclusion based on their own gut reactions, the officer could be basing on bad information altogether.

Why Are Field Sobriety Tests Still Used?

The simple answer is that they are the only readily available way an officer can test someone for impairment. No machinery or preparation is required; they need only instruct the suspect what to do and then do their best to accurately judge their actions. Some of the most common field sobriety tests used to gauge a driver's cognitive abilities and motor skills include:

  • Standing on one leg for up 30 seconds
  • Walking a straight line without stumbling, using arms, etc.
  • Following a pen or light with their pupils only
  • Reciting the alphabet or counting

Furthermore, these standardized tests must be administered and instructed correctly for such tests to be admissible in court.

Participation is an Option

It is important for all motorists to remember that roadside field sobriety tests are completely voluntary. You do have the right to refuse to take them if you feel that they will not accurately represent your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Furthermore, unlike chemical testing, there are no immediate ramifications for refusal.

If you have been arrested for a DWI in Kansas City – whether you were in Kansas or Missouri – after being subjected to a field sobriety test, you need to contact Steve Schanker, Attorney at Law. With membership to both the Missouri Bar Association and the Kansas Bar Association, you can be sure that he can help you pursue justice and refute inaccurate field sobriety test results.