If the police suspect you of driving while intoxicated, they will likely request that you undergo field sobriety tests. Most people have heard of these and understand they are used to determine sobriety.
However, many people don’t realize that these tests are not foolproof, and there are several situations and conditions that may lead to a false positive. Knowing some common reasons for this can help you protect your rights if you find yourself in this situation.
One of the primary causes of false positives in field sobriety tests is human error. Despite their training, law enforcement officers can make mistakes when administering the tests. For example, the officer may misjudge the amount of time you have to balance on one foot. They may also misinterpret eye movement. These mistakes can lead to false positives.
Medical conditions and disabilities
Individuals with certain medical conditions or disabilities might struggle with field sobriety tests, not because they are impaired by drugs or alcohol but due to their underlying conditions. For example, someone with an inner ear problem might have difficulty with the one-leg stand test, and a person with a neurological condition could show nystagmus (an involuntary jerking of the eye) even when sober.
External factors such as weather, uneven road surfaces or poor lighting can significantly impact an individual’s performance on a field sobriety test. Windy conditions might cause someone to lose their balance, and an uneven or slippery road surface can make the walk-and-turn test challenging for even a sober person.
While field sobriety tests are valuable for law enforcement to gauge impairment, they are not foolproof. It’s essential for both officers and the public to understand the potential pitfalls and limitations of these tests to ensure fair and accurate assessment.