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3 issues that affect the usefulness of field sobriety testing

On Behalf of | Mar 28, 2023 | DWI

When police officers suspect that someone is drunk at the wheel, they will pull that person over to screen them more carefully. In many cases, the way that an individual answers certain questions may confirm an officer’s suspicions that they may have had too much to drink.

The next step in the process of evaluating the driver may involve having them exit the vehicle to perform a series of field sobriety tests. In most cases, field sobriety tests help establish probable cause for additional testing and can be an important piece of evidence in the prosecution’s case against the driver.

Those who are facing driving while impaired (DWI) charges in Texas could lose their driving privileges or end up in state custody. In some cases, they might try to question the field sobriety test to guard against this risk. When are field sobriety tests not as authoritative as people might think?

When the driver has certain medical issues

Field sobriety tests are means of gauging someone’s intoxication by looking at how they perform certain tasks. However, alcohol intoxication is not the only factor that could affect someone’s performance on these tests. When an individual has medical issues, ranging from muscular tremors to severe anxiety, they’re underlying health issues will compromise the accuracy of field sobriety tests.

When officers get too creative

Sometimes, police officers deviate from best practices while trying to establish if someone has had too much to drink. There are certain standardized field sobriety tests that officers should perform to gauge someone’s sobriety. Performing their own tests or not capturing video footage of standardized tests might make it harder for a prosecutor to use those tests in court.

When traffic stops are not legal

The state cannot use any evidence gained by violating the law or the civil rights of an individual as part of a criminal case. When officers do not have justification for the initial traffic stop, the evidence that they gathered during their interactions with the other driver, including field sobriety test results, may not be usable in criminal court.

For some defendants, raising questions about field sobriety tests is an important part of their defense strategy. Learning more about how people fight DWI charges can help those who have been accused of drunk driving choose the best path forward with the assistance of an experienced legal professional.