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Ways to challenge field sobriety tests

On Behalf of | Feb 10, 2022 | dui/dwi |

Officers in Glen Burnie, Maryland, have the right to pull over suspected drunk drivers. They commonly use standard field sobriety tests: the walk-and-turn, horizontal gaze nystagmus test, and one-leg stand. However, their accuracy is often debated and drivers can challenge the results.

Tests not performed properly

Officers must follow the guidelines set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration during a DUI traffic stop. They also must take a course that instructs them on how to perform the tests and stay updated on training.

If they fail to follow proper instructions, such as skipping a step, the results may not be admissible. Tests other than the three standard tests, such as finger to nose or reciting the alphabet, are commonly not admissible in court.

Test conditions not suitable

The NHTSA requires the tests to be conducted on even, dry ground, which the defense may call into question. High heels, puddles, and surfaces with snow and ice can cause a driver to lose their balance, even sober.

Noise from oncoming traffic and the lights from the patrol car can be distracting and make it hard to focus and hear instructions. Sometimes, the circumstance itself can cause stress for highly anxious drivers, causing them to shake and appear intoxicated when they aren’t.

The driver has a medical condition

Sometimes, the tests are harder for sober drivers who are over 65, overweight or have neurological conditions. Musculoskeletal conditions, inner ear infections, arthritis, and bone fractures can cause poor balance and impact the results of the tests.

Certain medications the driver takes could give the driver an intoxicated appearance and increase chances of failing. The officer should ask the driver if they have any conditions that may cause failure and make note of it.

In Maryland, a driver can commonly refuse to take the field sobriety tests without penalty. If the driver feels the results are inaccurate, their attorney can file a motion to suppress evidence.



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