Field sobriety tests, commonly administered by law enforcement officers during traffic stops, help determine driver impairment by alcohol or drugs.
While these tests serve as useful tools for law enforcement, they are not foolproof and can sometimes yield inaccurate results.
1. Human error
One major factor contributing to potential inaccuracies in field sobriety tests is the possibility of human error. Law enforcement officers are human, and they are susceptible to making mistakes. They may misinterpret a driver’s performance due to various reasons, such as poor visibility, lack of training or distractions at the scene.
2. Nervousness and anxiety
When pulled over by an officer, many individuals experience heightened anxiety and nervousness. These natural reactions to a stressful situation can negatively impact a person’s ability to perform well on field sobriety tests, even if they are completely sober. Shaky hands, jittery movements and increased heart rate can all be mistaken as signs of impairment.
3. Environmental factors
Uneven terrain, adverse weather conditions and poor lighting can make it difficult for even a sober individual to successfully complete these tests. Slippery roads, for example, can cause anyone to stumble or lose balance.
Field sobriety tests rely heavily on an officer’s subjective judgment. They must make real-time assessments of a driver’s performance, and various factors can influence their perception, including personal biases. This subjectivity leaves room for misinterpretation and potential unfairness in the assessment process.
Every year, Georgia law enforcement deals with more than 200,000 DUI arrests, but not all cases are the same. Inherent flaws in field sobriety tests may offer a defense for a positive outcome.