Michigan police use standardized field sobriety tests in order to establish whether or not a person could be intoxicated. There are three main tests that are recognized as most reliable by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. These standardized field sobriety tests are:
Unfortunately, none of these tests are reliable indicators of impairment that can be depended upon in a DUI/OWI investigation. It is crucial for anyone who has been pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving to contact a lawyer who is aware of the problems associated with standardized field sobriety tests as soon as possible. While police may believe certain clues obtained through field tests can show if a person is intoxicated, there are many mistakes that can lead to false positive results and in most cases, the test results don’t at all relate to a person’s ability to drive safely. Protect yourself against wrongful conviction by educating yourself on the issues presented in cases involving field sobriety tests.
Grabel & Associates has been fighting for Michigan’s accused in drunk driving cases for over 10 years, and all our attorneys have extensive experience in the field of DUI defense. Let us guide you throughout your DUI/OWI/OUIL or other intoxicated driving case and work towards the best available case result. Read on to learn more about why standardized field sobriety tests are not reliable evidence in Michigan drunk driving cases.
The conditions under which standardized field tests are given can play a significant role in the ability of a suspect to pass the test. If it is dark, cold, raining, or foggy, it may be difficult to pass any of the three tests. In addition, if the ground is uneven, if there are headlights shining in the suspect’s eyes, or if there is a strong wind, the results of the test will likely differ from those in perfect conditions. Officers aren’t usually paying attention to test conditions and simply compare the mistakes made during the test to other cases, and assume any differences are a clue as to whether or not a person is intoxicated. Working with a lawyer will allow you to revisit the specific details of your roadside stop and bring any potential issues with the conditions under which you took a test forward during your pre-file case or trial.
Another important detail to be aware of is how the abilities of different people can play a role in their field sobriety test results. It is extremely unfair that a 60+ year old taking a test is evaluated the same as a 22 year old. In addition, some people have physical problems like joint pain, back issues, leg injuries, coordination problems, or other issues that could affect their ability to complete a sobriety test without error. Police rarely if ever ask a person beforehand if they have a condition that may hurt their ability to complete a test, and most people wouldn’t know regardless, since they have never had to perform these tests before.
No matter who you are, it is very possible that being pulled over by a police officer will cause your heart to race, even if you know you are completely innocent. When under pressure, it can be difficult to behave normally, and this could affect your ability to walk in a straight line, stand on one leg, or move your eyes as you normally would. There is no way to know how different people will handle pressure, yet standardized field sobriety tests assume every person will act the same, and regard any mistake as a potential clue that someone may be intoxicated.
There are also many procedural errors that can be made by an officer that may cause a person to fail a test. If the officer gives improper instructions, such as stating the wrong number of steps to take or not clearly communicating all the requirements of the test, it is also possible a person will fail. In addition, the results of the test may be misinterpreted or unfairly judged by an officer. For example, during the walk and turn test, NHTSA guidelines state that a person can have up to a one inch gap between their heel and toe before it is considered an error, but officers often regard any gap as a sign a person is intoxicated.
In addition, field sobriety tests are extremely subjective, and if an officer has already decided you are likely intoxicated before you begin a test, it is likely he or she will see what they want to see. Work with a lawyer and protect against wrongful conviction caused by faulty sobriety tests.
For a free initial case consultation, call 1-800-342-7896 now or contact a lawyer online through our contact page. We are available 24/7 to begin working with you and will do all we can to effectively represent you throughout your case.