How can people fail sobriety tests without being drunk?

On Behalf of | Apr 17, 2019 | Field Sobriety Tests |

The problem with field sobriety tests is that they can result in a “false positive,” which means that the test can conclude you have alcohol in your system when in fact you do not. While Massachusetts field sobriety tests are not complicated, it is a fact that a completely sober driver can still fail a sobriety test, which can lead to an unnecessary arrest and time in court.

A report from NBC affiliate Channel 29 out of Virginia points out how a sober motorist may end up on the wrong end of a sobriety test. Any motorist should be aware of how aspects of a sobriety test, like a walk-and-turn or a one-leg test, can register false positives. Here are three such instances where a person may not perform well on a sobriety test.

Balance Problems

Not everyone has good balance while walking. Some people may suffer from inner ear issues that cause stumbling or they could take medication that interferes with balance. There are also drivers who may have experienced a foot or leg injury in the past that makes it harder to maintain perfect balance. Other individuals may just lack good coordination with their feet. These issues, however they manifest, can cause a person to fail a walk-and-turn test or a one-leg test.

Lack of Concentration

Sometimes a driver may fail a sobriety test because the driver messed up on following the instructions. This may happen for any number of reasons that do not involve alcohol. A motorist may lead a busy life, perhaps caring for children or running a business, and are exhausted by the time a police officer pulls the motorist over. Some people may be tired from not getting enough sleep. Motorists may also be stopped at a late night hour. A driver who is not used to late night driving could be fatigued and not able to process even simple instructions very well.


Being stopped by a police officer can be a scary experience. You might wonder what you have done wrong and are afraid to say anything that might invite an arrest. A case of nerves can go as far as to impact your performance on a sobriety test. It is important, no matter the nature of your encounter with the police, to remain calm.

The kinds of problems a person might have with successfully passing a field sobriety test can vary. So no matter your situation, do not consider this article as legal advice. Only read it to inform yourself about field sobriety tests in Massachusetts.