Should the court always trust the results of a field sobriety test?

Field sobriety test rely on a police officer’s judgment, and some people can be arrested after failing a test even if they were sober.

The summer is a peak time for people to celebrate, but now that summer is nearly behind us, it doesn't mean people will stop having a good time. The first few weeks of fall are certainly still warm enough to enjoy a last summer party at a pool or the beach, and the beginning of college is another reason to celebrate. Football and other fall-related activities are sure to give people many excuses to have fun with friends and family. There's nothing wrong with having fun, but as those who have faced DUI charges over the summer can attest, activities involving drinking can sometimes end in an arrest.

However, some people may not realize that it's possible to face drunk driving charges even if they haven't been drinking. In the upcoming weeks, state law enforcement is likely to increase vigilance to watch for signs of people driving intoxicated while celebrating the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. One tool that many authorities nationwide have used to screen for drunk drivers is the field sobriety test. This test utilizes a variety of physical actions that may signal someone has been driving intoxicated, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, officers use their own judgment in determining whether to arrest someone for drunk driving based on a field sobriety test alone. It's possible for authorities to reach the wrong conclusion based on how the driver performed any number of the actions involved in a field sobriety test.

Inaccuracy issues with field sobriety tests

ABC Action News says that the actions performed during a field sobriety test to measure walking, balance, vision and speaking can easily be failed by anyone with balance problems or other cognitive or physical disabilities. For example, someone with a speech impediment may be misperceived as intoxicated. Some people, such as senior citizens or overweight people, may have difficulty balancing on one foot or walking in a straight line.

According to the Annapolis Patch, it's possible for an officer to make a mistake in judgment about 30 percent of the time. The Michigan Bar Journal says that law enforcement officers may have incorrectly conducted field sobriety tests in as many as 95 percent of cases.

Drunk driving penalties in Ohio

The penalties for even a first-time conviction for drunk driving are very steep in Ohio. They may include the following:

  • 3 days or more of jail time.
  • A minimum $375 fine.
  • Driver's license suspension of six months.
  • Possible alcohol treatment.

These consequences can affect a person's record and reputation for years, which is especially unfair if he or she was wrongly convicted based on a faulty field sobriety test.

Getting help from an attorney

Nobody should have to face unfair DUI charges. If you've been arrested for drunk driving, contact an experienced DUI defense attorney to protect your rights.

Keywords: DUI, drunk driving, arrest, field test