Field sobriety tests are one way a law officer determines if a driver has been drinking and is safe to be on the road. Although many people believe these tests are fail-proof, the reality is that false results occur under certain conditions. Medical and health problems may give a false positive, making an officer of the law believe you have been drinking when it is, in fact, a vision or balancing issue. Here are some of the ways your health might affect a field sobriety test:
- Visual problems, such as the eyes not tracking together, are also indicative of head trauma or injury. Tracking ability is often affected by some medical conditions and medications.
- Memory problems can occur because of anxiety or a side effect of pharmaceuticals. If you're asked to answer simple math problems or recite the alphabet backward, you might not be able to complete this part of the test due to a lack of cognitive awareness, not because of alcohol.
- Physical limitations can affect the way you walk a straight line or your ability to stand on one leg. People who are just 50 pounds overweight can often have a lack of balance due to their physical size. Injuries to your feet, legs and back may also affect your ability to perform certain parts of the test.
- Anxiety and other mental conditions can be exacerbated if stopped by a police officer, whether you're sober or not. Performing tests while under extreme stress could result in a failing score.
Know your rights
The police officer who administers the sobriety test should make sure you fully comprehend the instructions before continuing. You do have the right to refuse to take the field sobriety test, but you should respectfully refuse. Inform law officials if you are on medication or suffer from physical or mental challenges that could affect your test results. This information should be documented. If you fail the sobriety test due to health issues, you should be concerned about your ability to operate your vehicle safely. The most important thing is to get home in one piece.
In the event you fail a field sobriety test and receive a DUI, consult with an experienced attorney to get information about your rights and responsibilities. A DUI has long-lasting effects on your driving privileges, your finances and your insurance rates. You have both civil and administrative duties to manage if you've been charged with a DUI. Get an advocate on your side.