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Don't be surprised that you 'failed' that field sobriety test

Lights and sirens behind you immediately cause anxiety and probably raise your blood pressure as well. As you pull over, you may wonder what it was you did to draw the attention of the officer. As the two of you begin discussing the situation, the officer may ask you to exit the vehicle.

At this point, the officer begins asking you if you had anything to drink. Now you may understand that he or she suspects you of drinking and driving. Even though you could refuse, you agree to participate in field sobriety tests believing that you will pass with flying colors. Unfortunately, the officer claims that you failed and places you under arrest. You just became part of the approximately one-third of all of the sober people who fail these tests.

What happened? I wasn't drunk

The fact is that field sobriety tests are largely subjective on the part of the officer administering them. That's the first problem. The second issue is whether the officer has the appropriate certification to conduct the tests. Another source of contention may be whether the officer, even though certified, failed to properly administer the tests. Any of these issues may result in an arrest, but beyond that, you may simply have trouble passing the test.

Can you stand on one leg without losing your balance?

The test that drivers seem to fail most often is the one-leg stand, which is part of the Standardized Field Sobriety Test battery. When evaluating the effectiveness of the test under conditions considered ideal, a whopping 47 percent of the individuals tested failed despite not being impaired, and officers trained to conduct the test administered the testing. Even so, it is part of the SFST.

If that many people couldn't stand on one leg well enough to keep from ending up under arrest, you probably shouldn't be surprised that you weren't able to either. In fact, you could have a medical or physical condition that keeps you from passing this test. Something as simple as an inner ear infection or a bum knee could prevent you from passing the test.

The reality of the test is vastly different than the 'ideal conditions'

Most traffic stops in which an officer suspects the driver of being impaired occur at night. They also occur on busy roadways with plenty of distracting and bright lights passing by the scene. Hearing the officer's instructions may also be a challenge under these conditions. Considering all of these factors, plus your anxiety about going through the process, create a recipe for failure.

Won't a breath test clear me?

Unfortunately, many people end up under arrest before they take the official breath test. This means that you would have an arrest on your record even if your breath test clears you of any wrongdoing.

You have the right to challenge the results of a field sobriety test regardless of if you were sober when the officer administered the test.

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