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3 times field sobriety test results may not hold up at trial

On Behalf of | Sep 27, 2023 | Drunk Driving Defense

Police officers who suspect people of drunk driving typically start trying to gather evidence as soon as they have questions about someone’s sobriety. They may capture video footage of erratic driving from inside their vehicle and record the conversation they have after pulling someone over to show how they seemed impaired at the wheel.

However, it is often field sobriety tests that someone performs during a traffic stop that provide the first major evidence against that motorist. Field sobriety tests are often important because they give police officers a chance to develop the probable cause required to request a chemical breath test. Sometimes, a driver’s performance on those tests will play a role in their prosecution. Yet, there are circumstances under which field sobriety tests are likely to have a limited impact on someone’s criminal trial.

When the officer uses non-standard tests

There are a host of ways that people could attempt to demonstrate the chemical intoxication of others, but many of those tests would be largely subjective. There are three standardized field sobriety tests recognized as particularly useful. These tests include the walk-and-turn test, the one-leg stand test and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. If an officer administers totally different field sobriety tests, the results may not be as useful during a criminal trial as those obtained from standardized tests.

When there isn’t video footage

Typically, field sobriety tests should either occur at a location where a patrol car’s dashboard camera captures footage or directly in front of an officer so that their body camera records someone’s performance. When there isn’t a reliable recording of the field sobriety test and instead only an officer’s testimony about someone’s performance, people may have an easier time challenging the inclusion of those test results.

When the traffic stop was illegal

Evidentiary rules mandate that the state abide by the law when collecting evidence against individual defendants. Police officers have to have a reason to initiate a traffic stop and to request field sobriety testing. If an officer blatantly violated someone’s rights, a defendant’s lawyer could potentially use that to challenge the inclusion of test results gathered because of that legally questionable traffic stop.

Sometimes, people may not be able to prevent the courts from hearing about field sobriety test results but can provide a reasonable explanation with medical evidence. Discussing what happened during a traffic stop with an attorney can be a good starting point for those preparing to defend against drunk driving charges.

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