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Field Sobriety Tests – What Los Angeles Motorists Don’t Know, But Should Be Aware Of

Nearly everyone has heard of field sobriety tests, regardless of whether you have been pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving.  Even those who have never faced the stress of possibly being arrested for DUI want to avoid field sobriety tests at all costs, simply because they have heard the horror stories and know that it’s possible to be arrested for something you’re not guilty of.

What you may not be aware of is that these tests, administered by police, are subject to highly unreliable results.  While no police officer would admit to someone he or she pulled over that the results of these tests are far less reliable than those of other tests such as breath or urine tests, the fact is the results are questionable at best.

The three common tests utilized in Los Angeles and throughout California each have their own inherent flaws; these tests include the one-leg stand test, horizontal gaze nystgamus, and walk-and-turn test.  Unless you are in the law enforcement or legal industry yourself or are affiliated with someone who is, you probably have no reason to know that the results these tests yield on a frequent basis are inaccurate at best.  Most drivers have no idea that the horizontal gaze nystgamus test is only 77% accurate – and it is the one of the three tests identified as the most reliable!  What does this mean for motorists?  That if stopped for suspicion of drunk or impaired driving, there is a 1 in 4 chance you will be found to be intoxicated.

Generally speaking, law enforcement officials do not freely share this information with an individual who is being tested.  Instead, they continue to rely on these tests, putting motorists in a stressful or frightening situation even though they know the test results are not accurate.  To make the situation worse, many officers have been found guilty of not properly administering one or even all of the three tests.  Since their inception, the field sobriety tests established by the National Transportation Board have been tied to countless improper executions and false arrests.  It isn’t only that the tests themselves are unreliable or that law enforcement fail to execute the tests properly – there are many other factors which may affect the outcome.  For instance, walking a straight line may not be a simple matter even for a sober person considering his or her attire, weather conditions, medications he/she is taking, even a medical condition itself.

Even the fact that someone who has been pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving is likely nervous and frightened could in itself impact the results of field sobriety tests.  After all, how many of us would remain calm and collected enough to pass a walk-and-turn test with flying colors if we were under the scrutiny of a police officer, regardless of whether we were sober or intoxicated?

Now you can consider yourself forewarned about field sobriety tests, and the 25% likelihood you will not pass.  If you are ever stopped by police for this reason, be aware that the officer is not likely going to reveal to you the inaccuracies of these tests.  Also be aware that you are not required under the law to submit to these tests, although it isn’t likely the officer will inform you of this, either.

What if you have already been arrested for driving under the influence?  Regardless of the reason, it is to your benefit to consult with a skilled and capable Los Angeles DUI attorney, who will challenge the methods used to determine you were operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of greater than 0.08%.  Even breath and chemical tests have the potential for inaccuracy; equipment malfunction and human error can result in your being arrested for a crime you are innocent of.