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Field sobriety tests: Are they accurate, and should you challenge them?

On Behalf of | Jun 18, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Did you know that field sobriety tests can be extremely inaccurate? Individually, each of the tests is not particularly accurate. When they’re used together, the likelihood that they’ll predict impairment is higher, but it’s not as precise as you may think.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration once asked the Southern California Research Institute to review field sobriety tests to figure out if they were accurate. Out of dozens of tests, the main tests recommended for use by police were the one-legged stand, the horizontal gaze nystagmus, or HGN, and a walking and turning test.

The trouble with these tests is that they aren’t always accurate. The HGN has an accuracy of around 77% under perfect conditions with standardization. For walking and turning, the accuracy was 68%. For standing on one leg, it was only 65% accurate. Combined, the tests are still wrong 18% of the time.

What should you do if you’re asked to take field sobriety tests?

You can take the tests, but know that they are often challenged. Why? Sober individuals have been known to fail these tests due to poor balance, neurological conditions and other factors. The tests themselves are not scientifically proven to accurately identify intoxicated drivers.

Challenging field sobriety tests is something attorneys are familiar with. You can challenge the reliability of the tests or how the tests were administered. Officers who don’t give the tests correctly may give inaccurate grades or results, which may mean that those stopped could be unfairly charged with a DUI even if they didn’t drink before getting behind the wheel.

Our website has more on DUI arrests and what you should do if you face one. These tests are not infallible, so you deserve the opportunity to fight back.