Are Field Sobriety Tests Accurate?

Field sobriety tests are a method used by law enforcement officers to help determine whether a driver is intoxicated. Unfortunately, however, they aren’t always accurate. Therefore, if you are a Georgia driver, it’s important that you understand what field sobriety tests are and why they can be problematic for sober drivers. Below is an overview of field sobriety tests in Georgia. For additional information on field sobriety tests in Georgia, please contact a Georgia criminal defense attorney

Common field sobriety tests

There are three standard field sobriety tests: the one-leg stand, the walk-and-turn, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus. 

One-leg stand: The one-leg stand requires a driver to raise one leg approximately six inches off the ground. Then, the driver counts in thousands while looking downward and keeping his or her hands at his or her sides until instructed to stop by the police officer. Signs of intoxication while performing this test include swaying, hopping, putting a foot down, and using arms for balance.

Walk-and-turn: This test requires a driver to perform a specific number of heel-to-toe steps on a real or imaginary line, turn around, and perform the same number of heel-to-toe steps in the opposite direction. Signs of intoxication while performing this test include starting the test before instructions have been completed, difficulty balancing, stopping while walking, failing to walk heel to toe, stepping off the line, and taking the wrong number of steps.

Horizontal gaze nystagmus: The horizontal nystagmus test requires a driver to follow an object with his or her eyes. Nystagmus (an involuntary jerking of the eyes) before the eyes reach a 45-degree angle is a sign of intoxication.

Accuracy of field sobriety tests 

As noted above, field sobriety tests can be inaccurate. In fact, in a recent study, the one-leg stand was found to be only 65 percent accurate, the walk-and-turn test was found to be only 68 percent accurate, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test was found to be only 77 percent accurate. 

How sober drivers fail field sobriety tests

One reason for the inaccuracy of field sobriety tests is that numerous cognitive and physical conditions can mimic the signs of intoxication. Issues that can lead sober people to fail field sobriety tests include:

  • Inner ear problems
  • Poor balance 
  • Speech impediments 
  • Injuries
  • Obesity
  • Mental impairments

Contact a Georgia criminal defense attorney 

If you’ve been charged with DUI in Georgia, you need an experienced Georgia criminal defense attorney on your side. At Carter Pilgrim, our talented Georgia criminal defense attorneys will analyze the facts that led to your arrest and determine the best legal strategy for your Georgia criminal case. We are well known in Georgia for successfully defending clients in the courtroom and obtaining favorable plea bargains and dismissals. Therefore, if you’re facing a DUI charge in Georgia, please contact us to schedule an initial consultation.  

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Carter Pilgrim
Attorneys at Law

3725 Lawrenceville-Suwanee Rd, Suite A-4
Suwanee, GA 30024

Phone: Call our office 770-945-2320

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