Field sobriety tests are not always the best measure of a person’s level of intoxication. While it might seem like they would be helpful in identifying when someone is impaired, the reality is that even sober people can fail them.
For example, the walk-and-turn test is often used to show if someone has good balance and can follow directions. Problematically, it assumes that a person can walk heel to toe, pivot, and continue forward without becoming unbalanced. Realistically, not many people walk this way, and it’s normal for even sober people to fail the test.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has the walk-and-turn test marked as an approved field sobriety test, and police all over the country use it as one way of determining if they have the grounds for a DWI arrest.
Instruction and performance matter during the walk-and-turn test
Officers aren’t just looking at how you do on the test, they’re also looking at how well you follow directions. The officer may ask you to stand heel to toe or put your arms out while discussing how to perform the test. If you refuse or don’t seem to be able to follow those directions, you could already be looking at an arrest.
There are reasons why people can’t perform this test, though. Vertigo, balance issues, diabetes, neurological disorders and other medical problems can make the test impossible for some people to complete.
The NHTSA has stated that the walk-and-turn test has a low accuracy rate. It’s only 66% accurate under ideal conditions. That’s why it’s a good idea to look into challenging the test if it has been used as a reason to arrest you.
You deserve to defend yourself against the charges
You can defend yourself against an unfair arrest when field sobriety tests have been used inaccurately or when you couldn’t complete them because of medical issues. Even people who are sober have a hard time completing some of these tests well, so it’s important for you to keep that in mind and remember that you have a right to defend yourself against the allegations.