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Bucher Law Group, LLC

Issues with field sobriety tests

 Posted on June 09, 2017 in DUI/OWI

As a previous post discussed, being suspected of drunk driving can be an overwhelming experience for motorists in Wisconsin and other states across the nation. For some drivers, he or she might be under the impression that the police officer stopping them has enough evidence against them to place them under arrest. However, an officer must have enough evidence collected to have probable cause to place a driver under arrest.

When a driver is requested to submit to a field sobriety test during a traffic stop, this can be challenging and concerning. An individual might want to say no, fearful of what the results might indicate. While a driver does have the right to refuse to submit to a field sobriety test, it is important to note that consequences could arise if an officer chooses to ask for a breath test and the driver continues to refuse. With a breathalyzer, implied consent to submit to this test is established upon obtaining a driving license. By refusing to comply, a driver faces the risk of a license suspension even if a DUI charge does not result.

While a field sobriety test allows officers to test various factors and variables to establish whether a driver has been drinking and if alcohol has impacted the driver's ability to drive safely, there is one major problem with field sobriety tests. The problem is that most tests included are designed for drivers to fail. Based on scientific studies, it has been proven that these tests have very little reliability when it comes to helping a police officer predict whether or not a driver has a blood alcohol content level that is over the legal limit.

Out of the various tests that police officers could use when conducting a field sobriety test, only three are shown to be somewhat reliable. These include the walk and turn test, the one leg stand test and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. However, even these tests have a significant margin for errors. Even when officers are trained and conducting the tests in the manner approved, it is still possible to make errors, resulting in flawed results.

So what does this mean for those facing a drunk driving charge? This opens up the possibility to challenge these tests results and reliability. This could help dismiss some or all of the evidence against the driver, ultimately reducing or dismissing the charges and penalties they could face.

Source: Copblock.org, " The Problem with Standardized Field Sobriety Tests," Nov. 6, 2015

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