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Are field sobriety tests unfair to those with certain medical issues?

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

When a police officer wants to determine if you have been driving while drunk, they will pull you over based on your behavior. During the traffic stop, they will ask you a few questions and may then ask you to exit the vehicle and perform a field sobriety test.

The point of the field sobriety test is to help police officers establish probable cause for chemical testing during a drunk driving traffic stop. However, not everyone will have the same baseline performance on the standardized field sobriety tests.

Do these physical tests put people with certain medical conditions at a disadvantage?

Two of the three standard tests focus on balance

There are many different tests police officers use to determine someone’s sobriety, but only three standardized tests. Both the walk-and-turn test and the one-leg stand test focus largely on someone’s balance, as well as their ability to retain information or engage in rational thought while following instructions.

Medical issues ranging from anxiety to muscular dystrophy could potentially affect how well someone does on the walk-and-turn test or on the one-leg stand test. People could display stumbling when there is not nearly enough alcohol in their system to affect their balance or their gait.

What about the horizontal gaze nystagmus test?

Many people point to the horizontal gaze nystagmus test as one that is more reliable. However, this test relies on an officer gauging how strong a muscle spasm in your eye is. Some individuals may already have a more pronounced horizontal gaze nystagmus or one that onsets at a lower-degree angle than others.

For some people, challenging field sobriety test results can help them avoid a criminal conviction. Exploring all of your drunk driving defense options can help you avoid the embarrassment and expense of a conviction.