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Are Field Sobriety Tests (FST) Always Accurate?

When a law enforcement officer suspects that you have been driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs, they may administer a series of standardized field sobriety tests in order to more accurately determine your level of intoxication. There are three different tests that have been approved by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA)—including the One-Leg Stand, the Walk and Turn and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus—and each has been designed to simultaneously test physical and cognitive functions. Although field sobriety tests are a viable way for an officer to gain a preliminary idea of what they are dealing with, it is important to understand that the information gathered from this form of testing is not always accurate.

In fact, it has been reported that a perfectly administered field sobriety test may only accurately predict intoxication 77% of the time. Since there are numerous factors that could affect the results of a field sobriety test, the officer must take this into consideration. For example, the One-Leg Stand was designed as a "divided attention test." This means the driver would be required to stand on one foot for 30 seconds while following oral commands. If the officer observes two or more of the designated indicators, they may assume that the driver is intoxicated. These may include a) putting your foot down before the test is over, b) hopping in order to maintain balance, c) swaying or d) using your arms to stay balanced. Sounds easy enough, right?

Critics of field sobriety testing contend that this test has been designed to fail. In some cases, the One-Leg Stand would be difficult for a sober driver to complete—as one's weight, height and overall coordination must be taken into consideration. For this reason, the results of a field sobriety test are not always the most accurate or reliable form of evidence. Since there is no way for an officer to know what the driver's blood-alcohol concentration was without administering a breath or blood test, it could be argued that external factors were mistakenly seen as "indicators." As such, you should not hesitate to discuss your case with a Reno DUI attorney from The Law Office of Walter B. Fey if you were arrested after failing a series of field sobriety tests. We are well-equipped to challenge faulty evidence.

If you are interested in contacting our firm, we encourage you to call today at 1-888-339-4384. In doing so, you will have the opportunity to schedule an initial consultation with our dedicated legal team.