Aggressive Defense Against DUI And Traffic Charges

Are field sobriety tests reliable evidence?

On Behalf of | Sep 21, 2021 | DUI |

Honolulu may be a vacation destination for some, but it is also a place that many people, you included, call home. Whether you are commuting to work, running errands or out having fun on the weekends, you likely find yourself behind the wheel of your vehicle multiple times a week, if not a day. Unfortunately, you may have recently had a negative experience while you were on the road due to a police officer stopping you.

At first, you may not have thought much of the traffic stop, likely believing that the officer thought you were speeding or perhaps had a brake light out. However, when the officer began questioning you about whether you had been drinking and asked you to step out of your vehicle, you may have felt a jump in your nerves. If the officer asked you to perform field sobriety tests and was not happy with the results, you may now be facing a DUI charge.

Are field sobriety tests reliable?

Many of the evidence-collecting methods that officers use in the field for DUI stops are notoriously unreliable, including field sobriety tests. The three tests officers typically conduct — one-leg stand, horizontal gaze nystagmus and walk-and-turn — all have subjective elements to them. In fact, even when conducting these tests under near perfect conditions, such as indoors on even flooring and without distractions, officers mistakenly arrested sober individuals nearly half the time.

Of course, in the field, testing areas rarely have perfect conditions, and any of the following elements could affect the test results:

  • Distractions, such as passing vehicles, flashing lights on the police car and noises nearby
  • Uneven surfaces, rocks or other debris in the test area that could cause balance problems
  • Medical issues that may affect balance or eye movement
  • Feelings of nervousness or anxiety that affect a person’s abilities

Unfortunately, even if these or other outside factors had a negative effect on your ability to perform field sobriety tests, the officer may have still placed you under arrest. If that is the case, you may have reason to challenge these results in court.

Defending against charges

If the officer had no other probable cause to take you into custody for DUI other than the results of the field sobriety tests, challenging those tests could prove beneficial to your case. If evidence exists that the officer did not perform the tests properly, the conditions affected the results or other factors came into play, your charges could be lessened or even dismissed.