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Ways to Challenge Field Sobriety Tests

If a law enforcement officer allegedly observes erratic driving or suspects a driver may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they may initiate a traffic stop. During the stop, if the officer develops reasonable suspicion that the driver is impaired, they may ask them to exit the vehicle and perform a series of field sobriety tests.

These tests are intended to assess a driver's coordination, balance, and ability to follow instructions. The results of these tests can help the officer determine whether they have cause to arrest the driver for a DUI (Driving Under the Influence).

Field Sobriety Tests Can Be Inaccurate

Field sobriety tests (FSTs) do not provide infallible results. These tests, including the one-leg stand, walk-and-turn, and horizontal gaze nystagmus, exhibit inherent limitations and can be influenced by various factors unrelated to impairment. As such, FST results should not be considered definitive proof of impairment and can be challenged in court.

How to Contest Field Sobriety Test Results

When contesting the results of a field sobriety test, you need to present evidence that questions the reliability or accuracy of the test. This could include dashcam footage, medical records, witness testimonies, or expert opinions. In some cases, reenacting the test in similar conditions could also be beneficial.

FSTs can often be challenged because of the following:

  • Flaws in the test. Field sobriety tests are not foolproof. They rely on subjective observations and can be influenced by numerous factors. For instance, the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, which checks for involuntary eye movement, can be affected by several medical conditions or even fatigue. The Walk-and-Turn and One-Leg-Stand tests, which assess balance and coordination, can also be influenced by factors such as age, weight, footwear, and road conditions.
  • Incorrect administration. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has set specific guidelines for administering FSTs. If the officer deviates from these guidelines, the results can be challenged. This could include failing to provide clear instructions, conducting the tests in an inappropriate location, or not considering the individual's physical or mental condition.
  • Physical or mental conditions. Physical or mental conditions can also impact the results of an FST. For example, individuals with injuries or disabilities may struggle with balance-related tests. People suffering from neurological conditions may fail the HGN test. Anxiety or nervousness can also impact performance. If these conditions were not considered during the test, it can provide grounds for challenge.

You Can Refuse to Take a Field Sobriety Test

In Tennessee, you can face serious consequences for refusing to take a breath test. However, you do have the right to refuse to consent to FST. You will also not face legal consequences for refusing. Police officers do not have to inform you of your right to refuse.

Our Firm Can Help You Challenge FST Results

At Eldridge and Cravens, PC, we are backed by decades of collective experience. Should you face DUI charges, our team can help you develop a unique defense strategy.

When you retain our services, we can examine the prosecution’s case and find ways to poke holes in their evidence and arguments. If you were arrested because of the results of an FST, a part of your defense may involve casting doubt on the accuracy of the test results.

Schedule an initial consultation with our firm today. Call (865) 544-2010.