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3 factors that can affect a field sobriety test

On Behalf of | Jun 26, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Have you ever failed a sobriety test, but, you have not had a drop to drink? It might seem improbable, but there are actually several reasons why you might fail a field sobriety test, even if you are not drunk.

Police officers have designed field sobriety tests to help determine if a driver has an impairment. They involve a series of physical and cognitive tasks that could be challenging to complete if under the influence. However, there are other factors that can affect the results of these tests, making them less-than-perfect indicators of impairment.

1. Physical and health conditions

Physical conditions such as arthritis, injuries or issues with balance can affect your ability to successfully perform tasks required in a field sobriety test. Likewise, neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease or even vertigo can interfere with balance and coordination.

In addition, health conditions that affect your eyes can impact the results of tests that involve tracking a moving object or balancing. Conditions such as glaucoma or eye injuries can make it hard to follow an officer’s pen or finger during the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test.

2.  Environmental factors

The environment where you perform the field sobriety test can also play a significant role. If you are on a sloped or uneven surface, it can affect your balance and make the test more difficult. Poor lighting can also interfere with vision-based tests.

In addition, weather conditions can influence test results. Performing these tests in heavy rain, snow or high winds can pose significant challenges, regardless of sobriety.

3. Nervousness and stress

The stress of having the police pull you over and them asking you to perform a field sobriety test can cause nervousness, which in turn, can affect your performance on the tests. Nervousness can result in shaking, stumbling or struggling to follow instructions, all of which can be mistaken for signs of impairment.

It is important to communicate any conditions or factors that might affect your ability to perform the tests to the officer conducting the test. Being aware of these factors can help ensure that field sobriety tests are fair and accurate.