If a police officer uses a test to determine whether you’re intoxicated — and, at the same time, to determine much of what your future is going to look like — wouldn’t you want that test to be 100% accurate? Wouldn’t you be concerned if the failure rate was high enough that you could be falsely accused of intoxication, arrested and put behind bars?
The clear answer to this is yes, anyone would want the test to be accurate and would be concerned if it was not. But then, why do we still use field sobriety tests?
The truth about these tests
The reality is that these tests are, at best, accurate 82% of the time. Specific tests, on their own, are accurate even less of the time. It’s just 65% for the one-leg stand, for instance, and 68% for the walk and turn test. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is the most accurate, at 77%, but even it gets it wrong for more than 2 out of every 10 drivers. And, even if an officer gives out all three tests, that’s what brings it up to 82%.
Plus, every specific case depends on the circumstances of that test. What was visibility like? Was it raining? Was the officer distracted? How long had the officer been on the force? How many previous tests had they given out? There are a lot of judgment calls with field sobriety tests, and you can’t be sure your officer is making them correctly.
If you have been arrested due to an inaccurate and unreliable test, you need to know all the defense options at your disposal.