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4 problems associated with field sobriety tests

On Behalf of | Sep 22, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Law enforcement officers commonly employ field sobriety tests to determine driver impairment from alcohol or drugs.

While these tests aim to enhance road safety, they come with a range of inherent problems that warrant examination.

1. Subjectivity

One significant problem with FSTs is their subjectivity. These tests often rely on the observations and judgment of the arresting officer. Because human perceptions can be fallible, what one officer considers a failure might be different from another. This subjectivity leaves room for errors and inconsistency in determining sobriety.

2. Variability in performance

Another issue is that FSTs assume all individuals have similar physical abilities and health conditions. However, not everyone has the same level of balance or coordination. Some medical conditions, injuries or even nervousness can affect a person’s performance. Thus, even a sober person may perform poorly on these tests due to factors beyond their control.

3. Lack of standardization

There is no standardized set of FSTs that all law enforcement agencies follow. This lack of uniformity means that the tests used can vary widely between jurisdictions. Different tests may have different criteria for failure, further contributing to inconsistencies in the legal system.

4. Limited validity

The accuracy of FSTs in detecting impairment is not as high as one might assume. These tests are often far from foolproof and may yield false positives. This can result in innocent individuals facing legal consequences they do not deserve.

While approximately 1 million arrests happen each year for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, faulty or improperly conducted FSTs provide some people a solid defense.