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How Accurate are Field Sobriety Tests?

Throughout the year, the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety has seriously beefed-up their efforts for enforcement of DUI laws. We’ve seen this primarily in the form of grant money to local law enforcement agencies. While we applaud the agency for its efforts in keeping us safe, we also want to educate people about their rights when pulled over by law enforcement. In this article, we’ll focus on field sobriety tests.


Field Sobriety Tests at a Glance

Here are the primary field tests used by law enforcement. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus – also known as the “eye test” The officer will ask you to follow a light strictly with your eyes – no head movement. Usually, the officer will use a penlight for this test. The officer is looking for involuntary twitching in the eye. The main issue with this test is that – even when conducted in ideal conditions – it  is only 77% accurate. Interestingly, the twitching that the officers is looking for             can be caused by medical conditions that the officer is ill equipped to determine. One-Leg-Stand You will be asked to count – usually like “one-one thousand, two-one thousand…” – while standing on one leg. The officer is looking for swaying, hopping or using arms for balance. If you show one or more of those clues, chances are you will fail the test an be arrested         for DUI. People who should never be asked to take this test include people who are

  • Over 65-years-old
  • More than 50 pounds overweight
  • Experiencing problems with inner ear balance or leg and back pain

Even if administered in ideal situations, this test has an accuracy rate of only 65% in determining whether or not the driver is actually intoxicated. Walk and Turn You’ll be asked to take 9 heel-to-toe steps while staying in a straight line before turning on one foot and doing the same thing in the opposite direction. Things that can raise the chances of being charged with DUI include losing your   balance, beginning the test before the instructions are completed, turning  incorrectly or taking the wrong number of steps. Like the previous tests, the walk-and-turn is far from accurate. In fact, even if  given in ideal situations, the test has a mere 66% rate of accuracy.

Refuse to Take Field Sobriety Tests

Because they are so subjective, there’s absolutely no good reason to submit to a field sobriety test. They are absolutely 100% voluntary. While you are risking having your driver’s license suspended if you refuse a portable breathalyzer test, there is no punishment for refusing a field sobriety test.

Charged with DUI? Call the Oswalt Law Group

A DUI charge can cost you thousands of dollars and even result in jail time. There’s no doubt about it: if you’ve been charged with a DUI, you need the expertise of an experienced DUI attorney on your side. Call the Oswalt Law Group for a free consultation at (602) 225-2222.    

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