If a police officer suspects that you're driving over California's legal limit for blood alcohol concentration, they have the right to detain you for questioning, search for evidence, and make a DUI arrest. In many cases, the officer may seek to confirm their suspicions by utilizing roadside evaluations like field sobriety tests or breathalyzer tests. The field sobriety assessments you might encounter in California include the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, walk-and-turn test, and one-leg stand test. During these investigations, the officer pays close attention to your performance with the idea of placing a pass or fail grade.
In general, a field sobriety test is used as an element to determine whether you've been drinking and driving. However, it is not uncommon for a person to be completely sober and still fail a field sobriety test as a result of confounding factors.
Why Sober Drivers Sometimes Fail Field Sobriety Tests
An arrest for a crime you didn't commit may be your worst fear. Unfortunately, by submitting to a field sobriety test, this worry may become a reality given that field sobriety tests are often unreliable and insufficient gauges of a person's sobriety. Although the officer isn't likely to mention it, these tests are also entirely voluntary in the State of California. Given the reality of these tests, submitting to one might be a mistake.
Here are a few reasons why sober people sometimes fail these tests:
The Test Is Subjective
These tests have no scientific basis and are subject only to an officer's judgment, which is often biased if they want to gather evidence that may lead to a DUI conviction. This means you may “pass” with one officer but “fail” with another. In fact, research shows that officers are substantially more likely to overestimate a person's BAC based on the results of these tests.
You Have a Medical Condition
It's not always easy to communicate your medical history to a police officer, especially if you're anxious and the officer is determined to find evidence to lead to an arrest. However, if you have a medical condition that interferes with your balance or eyesight, you may not be able to pass a field sobriety test, especially the walk-and-turn and the one-leg stand. Medical conditions that could lead to some difficulty with field sobriety tests include vertigo, inner ear conditions, or muscle tremors.
You Suffer from Anxiety
Being pulled over by law enforcement for any crime, let alone something as severe as DUI, may be an extremely stressful and anxiety-inducing circumstance for just about anyone. This pressure may only intensify if you're innocent. If you are nervous or shaky, it is not uncommon to fail a field sobriety test. Likewise, the officer in charge of the tests may misinterpret your jitters as intoxication.
For the same reason you may fail a field sobriety test because you have a condition, field sobriety tests may be difficult because you are exhausted. If you are in this state, you probably should not have been driving in the first place, but you certainly shouldn't be penalized for driving under the influence as a result.
If your body is weakened, any physical test may be difficult. Likewise, even if you aren't sleepy, your body might be stiff and weary from sitting in one place for an extended period of time, such as the driver's seat. If this is the case, you may find that your legs are not working the way they usually do, jeopardizing the results of the tests.
There are many additional reasons why an individual who has not been drinking might fail these tests, including illness, uneven pavement, or confusing instructions. Fortunately, if you think your rights have been infringed upon while performing a sobriety test, the knowledgeable lawyers at the Aron Law Firm may be able to protect you from the penalties associated with a conviction.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer at the Aron Law Firm Today
If you've been arrested for driving under the influence in California based on a failed field sobriety test—especially if you were sober at the time of the arrest—it's crucial that you get in touch with an experienced DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible. Fortunately, the California criminal defense lawyers at the Aron Law Firm may be able to help. Our experienced attorneys are dedicated to protecting your rights by investigating your case and putting together a strategic defense. With the right legal team on your side, you may be able to avoid the consequences that stem from this offense.
At the Aron Law Firm, we have experience helping clients fight an assortment of criminal charges, including driving under the influence. Our seasoned legal team is with you every step of the way. To speak with a DUI defense attorney, schedule a consultation by calling (805) 618-1768 or completing our online contact form today.