Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offense in Maryland and elsewhere. In most cases, when officers suspect a driver of being impaired, they will try to administer several field sobriety tests. The results of these field sobriety tests are often used as evidence for charging a driver with DUI. However, field sobriety tests are not always accurate. Regardless, even if a person has not been drinking but still performs poorly on the field sobriety tests administered by officers, he or she may still be arrested.
How accurate are field sobriety tests?
Field sobriety tests usually consist of three exams: walk and turn, the one-leg stand and horizontal gaze nystagmus. Standardized field sobriety testing was first implemented by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, when the NHTSA first recommended these tests, they were only about 47% accurate in showing if a driver was over the legal limit.
In addition, these tests are subjective. Even when the tests were further standardized, their accuracy rate only increased to just over 80%. If an officer does not correctly administer or grade the tests, it could produce inaccurate results. Also, certain physical and medical conditions can influence field sobriety test results.
Challenging field sobriety tests
Many experts believe that field sobriety tests are not a reliable indicator to prove a person is intoxicated. However, to be convicted of DUI, the charges must be proved in court and beyond a reasonable doubt. If prosecutors only use field sobriety tests as evidence, the possibility that the charges could be dropped or dismissed may increase. Anyone in Maryland who has been charged with DUI could benefit by speaking with an experienced attorney. The lawyer may choose to challenge the accuracy of any field sobriety tests administered and also contest other aspects of the case.