Reasons to decline standardized field sobriety tests

On Behalf of | Dec 26, 2022 | DWI Defense |

You’re headed home one night, minding your own business – but you slide through a stop sign without coming to a full stop while an officer is watching.

Before you know what is happening, the officer is asking you some questions that clearly indicate you’re under suspicion of drunk driving. Now, the officer wants you to submit to standardized field sobriety testing (SFST) to “prove” that you’re not impaired.

Here are some good reasons to decline:

They are not required by any law or consent agreement

Unlike chemical testing via a Breathalyzer or another device, you never gave your implied consent to submit to SFST. That means that you are not legally obligated to perform the tests, nor can the officer seize your license for refusal.

Even under perfect conditions, the tests aren’t all that reliable

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the horizontal gaze nystagmus test is the most reliable, with a 77% accuracy rate at detecting who is sober. That means nearly one out of four times an officer will still get it wrong – and that’s when the test is performed under optimum conditions — not at the side of the road with a nervous driver. The other tests are even less reliable.

The scoring is negatively slanted and highly subjective

Imagine a test that only scores your mistakes rather than what you get right. Well, that’s how SFST works. Because “passing” and “failing” are entirely the judgment call of the officer giving the test, a small error as you try to perform the walk-and-turn test, for example, can outweigh everything you do right.

It’s always good to remember that a drunk driving charge isn’t the same as a conviction. If you’ve been charged, it’s wise to seek legal guidance to protect your rights and determine your defense options.