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Outside factors can affect reliability of field sobriety tests

You certainly did not anticipate your night ending with you getting pulled over by a police officer. What might have come as even more of a shock was the officer taking you into custody for driving under the influence of alcohol. You may have felt perfectly in control of your driving, but the officer may have believed that he or she had probable cause to arrest you.

In many cases, Tennessee police officers will utilize field sobriety tests in efforts to determine whether a person is intoxicated. These tests typically involve the officer having a person stand on one leg, follow an object with just his or her eyes, and walk a straight line and turn to come back. The tests themselves are not perfect measures of impairment, and other factors may have affected the outcome of your tests as well.

What were the conditions during the testing?

A number of outside factors could affect how well you or any other driver performs field sobriety tests. Aside from personal factors, like any health conditions you may have or a general lack of balance, your tests could provide even less solid evidence of intoxication if any of the following conditions were present:

  • A sloped road
  • Heavy wind or rain
  • Performing the tests in a dangerous area of the road, like in a curve, on a bridge or on a hill
  • Gravel, dirt or another surface that may have affected your balance or coordination
  • Performing the tests in a poorly-lit area that made it difficult for you to see

Additionally, your tests could have been compromised if the officer took you to a different location to perform them. If at any point you felt like you did not have the freedom to leave, you may have believed yourself to be under arrest. As a result, if an officer placed you in a police vehicle to take you to another location for field sobriety tests, you may have felt unable to leave, and the officer may have violated your rights.

How can this help?

If the officer used the outcomes of the field sobriety tests as probable cause to arrest you for DUI, but any of the aforementioned conditions affected your abilities, you may use that information as part of your criminal defense. If the court deems the results of the tests inadmissible and no other probable cause for your arrest exists, the court may drop the charges. Of course, your specific circumstances will affect your case, and discussing your situation with a criminal defense attorney may help you determine whether this possibility applies.

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Law Office of Sam Byrd
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