Is there a medical explanation for failing a field sobriety test?

| Jul 2, 2021 | Field Sobriety Tests |

The reason drunk driving is illegal is that alcohol affects how safely someone drives. Those impaired by alcohol or other drugs may have a hard time reacting to changing traffic conditions. They might get distracted because focusing becomes difficult, struggle to monitor their surroundings or even pass out at the steering wheel. Impaired drivers cause serious crashes, sometimes involving only their vehicle or multiple other cars.

Even those who don’t cause crashes but just drive in a questionable manner can wind up arrested for impaired driving. Police officers have training that helps them more easily identify drivers who have had too much to drink. They will ask certain questions during traffic stops and also asked someone to perform a field sobriety test.

How someone does on those tests might lead to an officer requesting chemical testing or an arrest. Are there reasons other than intoxication that you would struggle with a field sobriety test?

Many medical conditions can affect two of the standardized tests

Police officers try to test balance, memory and coordination with field sobriety tests. Two of the standard tests are the walk-and-turn test and the one-leg stand test. Although both of these tests can be difficult for those who have had too much to drink, they can also be hard for people with a large number of different medical conditions.

Musculoskeletal conditions and even just being overweight could affect someone’s performance on these tests. Physical disability and advanced age can also affect test performance. Mental health issues like anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder can also affect how someone performs in a moment of pressure during a traffic stop. Someone might fail these tests for reasons that have nothing to do with alcohol.

Neurological conditions might affect the movement of your eyes

One of the standard field sobriety tests involves watching your eyes for involuntary jerking motions when you follow a moving object with them. Although alcohol can affect how you do on the test, there are neurological conditions that could have the same impact.

Understanding why you may have failed a field sobriety test can help you prepare to defend yourself from the impaired driving charges that followed that failed test.