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Drunk or sober, field sobriety tests are tough to pass

Regular readers of this blog know that we hold a rather jaundiced view of field sobriety tests. Police tend to rely on them a lot when deciding whether to press ahead on an arrest for suspected driving under the influence. What they don't tell you is that the margins of error on such tests are very wide, which makes them a questionable foundation upon which to buid a case.

Indeed, the nature of the standard field sobriety tests is such that it is easy for a person who is cold sober to do poorly on them. Just how difficult can it be to deliver a false positive? A TV station in one of our neighboring states to the north conducted its own investigation to find out. Read on to learn what they found out.

The scene was a downtown mall. Three subjects, all sober, were recruited to go through the motions. A local police officer conducted the tests. Various standard exams were done.

There was the nystagmus test, which gauges jerkiness of the eyes during a horizontal scan. The jerkier the eye, the more likely it is believed that the person is under the influence. The subjects also were put through tests that gauged their ability to follow directions and their balance. The premise is that drunk individuals have a tougher time completing them successfully.

All three subjects passed, but had their issues. One woman had balance issues when she was told to walk and turn. Another woman didn't follow the instructions correctly and jumbled up on a partial alphabet recitation. The only male subject stumbled on the alphabet, too. He also found the one-leg stand troublesome.

The point to take away is that submitting to such tests is the same as giving evidence against yourself. That's something you don't have to do, which is why many legal experts advise that if you are stopped by police for suspected DUI, remain silent, politely decline testing, and call an attorney.

Source: NBC29.com, "Passing a Field Sobriety Test Difficult - Drunk or Sober," Nov. 14, 2013

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