Common Misconceptions Regarding Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

Field Sobriety Test Accuracy From Chicago’s Leading DUI Attorney

Interviewer: What would you say are some of the top misconceptions that people have about the standardized field test.

Fred Dry: The misconception is that the police officer will be fair and understand other things that can affect Field Sobriety Testing, like if the driver has  physical issues, they have been up for 20 hours, they are 65 years old, 50 pounds over-weight, among others. The police officer will give them allowances for less than perfect performances and attribute that to the driver’s own personal issues.

In reality, police officers don’t do that. Field sobriety test accuracy differs between police officers. They say I think that you’re intoxicated, shouldn’t be driving, I am going to arrest you. They judge your performance as it is against perfection, without regards to whatever reasons, other than intoxication, you might have for not being able to achieve perfection.

Police Officers Mostly Commit Mistakes in the Administration of the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

Interviewer: What do you think that police officers get most inaccurate?

Fred Dry: The police have the most difficult time doing the Gaze Nystagmus test. I think that’s the most difficult one to administer properly. The others are easy to administer properly, if you give the right instructions.  But the horizontal gaze nystagmus test is also dependent on how the police officer moves the stimulus the eyes have to respond to and how accurately a 45 degree angle is determined. It’s a test where it takes 2 active people to perform it. One person moving the stimulus, the other persons’ eyes to follow it. Where the walk and turn the leg one stand, the police officer just stands there and watches.

Common Client Perceptions Regarding Field Sobriety Test Accuracy

Interviewer: How do clients usually feel about their performance in the FSTs? How do they feel about how they did on the standardized field sobriety tests?

Fred Dry: That is often determined by the persons’ own perception of their level of intoxication. People who don’t think that they were drunk say that they did very well. Though some say that they could never do these exercises even had they not had alcohol at all. People who come in and say, “I may have had one too many” usually say they did not do very well on the test.  Regardless of whichever situation you’re in, your perception of how well you did is, often times,  at variance with how you did. Most people think they did pretty well but most people are far from perfect. Most people need a lawyer who understands the dynamics of these tests to be able to present the person’s case in court the way it will be effective in defending them and explaining their performance.

People Often Relate their Performance with their Perception of How Impaired they were

You have to understand the difficulties in taking these tests and understand why this particular individual didn’t do as well as they might have thought they did. These are hard tests to administer or perform because low alcohol levels that are prohibited don’t produce the kind of effects that most people would expect to see when they hear about someone being  drunk. Many people expect to see the gross motor skills where you stagger and stumble and fall down. Somebody who is in that state is way beyond the .08 alcohol concentration in their blood now prohibited by the DUI laws. People who are at .08 or slightly over that do not exhibit those gross exhibitions of physical behavior that everybody would understand as intoxication.

If FSTs are Properly Administered, People May Get Much Better Results

The lowest levels of alcohol concentration prohibited in the law are much smaller and show up in field sobriety tests in subtle ways. If somebody has those gross signs of intoxication, like staggering, stumbling or falling down, the field sobriety tests are going to add nothing.  Now, the  prohibited alcohol levels have gotten so low that lots of people below, near or at the .08 alcohol concentration will not exhibit those symptoms, but still cannot do well enough to pass the field sobriety tests unless they are administered in a completely objective and proper way and with the clues of intoxication determined in a fair manner.  Even so, people rarely are going to be perfect. Even drivers who have had little or no alcohol may “fail” the Field Sobriety Tests. That is why a skillful, experienced and tenacious DUI defense lawyer is needed for these cases.

Field sobriety test accuracy depends on several factors. Know your rights, and Chicago DUI attorney Fred Mark Dry will fight for you in court.

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