Field sobriety tests are a series of tests used by police officers to determine if a person suspected of impaired driving is intoxicated with alcohol or drugs. The three tests most commonly used are the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk-and-turn, and the one-leg stand.
The horizontal gaze nystagmus test checks for involuntary jerking of the eye which can indicate alcohol impairment.
The “walk and turn” test requires a test subject to take a specified number of steps while touching heel-to-toe, turn around and walk back in the same manner.
The “one leg stand” test requires a test subject to stand with one foot six inches off the ground while counting.
There are tests that are also used that are less physically focused. They are the finger dexterity test, “counting backwards” and the alphabet test.
The horizontal gaze nystagmus is the most accurate of the three most commonly required tests, but it only has a 77% accuracy rate, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Failing one or more of these field sobriety tests can lead to an Ocean City driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge.
However, sometimes people who are sober fail field sobriety tests. It’s been estimated that about one-third of sober people fail field sobriety tests.
There are many reasons why a sober driver might fail an Ocean City field sobriety test. The driver may have mental or physical handicaps that prevent them from performing the tests. Common medical conditions that can make a driver appear impaired and cause poor test performance include diabetes, high blood sugar, low blood sugar, watery eyes due to allergies and many more.
Before asking an individual to perform a field sobriety test, a police officer should ask whether there are any medical conditions that could affect the driver’s ability to perform the tests.
Law enforcement should also ask if the driver takes any prescription medication. There are instances where the medication a driver is taking has been mistaken for alcohol or drug intoxication.
Physical injuries such as back pain and knee pain or balance issues can also cause a driver to fail the sobriety tests as well as other conditions such as anxiety and fatigue.
Police officers often fail to ask questions about conditions or issues that would affect test performance and that can lead to an Ocean City law enforcement officer determining that a driver is under the influence when they are not.
In one recent incident, a driver who was suspected of impaired driving was asked to remove his glasses which lead to questions as to whether the man could adequately see the trooper’s demonstration of the field sobriety tests. The Maryland state trooper who conducted the field sobriety tests did not ask the driver how bad his eyesight is and did not know whether the suspected impaired driver was able to adequately see the trooper’s demonstration of the field sobriety tests.
Maronick Law LLC. is open during the pandemic and will continue to meet your Glen Burnie, Annapolis, Baltimore, Essex, Ocean City, Towson, White Marsh impaired driving defense needs. We can meet with you remotely if you have access to Zoom. The consultation is free. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 202.288.0167, the law office at 410.881.4022 or via the website.