While field sobriety tests (FSTs) are often used for laughs in television and movies, they are no laughing matter because they often provide critical evidence supporting a Kansas DUI arrest. These tests involve agility, coordination and balance but poor performance on FSTs may have little relationship to actual alcohol impairment. While many people believe that FSTs are reliable “scientifically valid” forms of identifying alcohol impairment, FSTs often inaccurately identify those who have physical injuries, illnesses or poor coordination as being intoxicated.
There are two forms of field sobriety tests – (1) standardized field sobriety tests and (2) non-standardized field sobriety tests. While officers sometimes employ non-standardized FSTs, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that regulates these tests have only authorized standardized FSTs as having any reliability in determining if a driver is intoxicated. Even standardized FSTs have substantial false positive error rates. The only standardized FSTS are the one leg stand, walk and turn and gaze nystagmus.
A study conducted by Dr. Spurgeon Cole of Clemson University asked fourteen police officers to evaluate 21 subjects performing FSTS and identify which ones were intoxicated. The officers identified approximately 46 percent of the subjects as being under the influence based on their performance of FSTs. However, all 21 subjects were stone cold sober because they had not consumed a drop of alcohol before performing the FTS. Statistically, the police officers would have been more accurate in determining who was intoxicated had they flipped a coin. This reveals that lack of training and skill that officers often have in evaluating the sobriety of drivers based on FST performance.
The walk and turn and one leg stand even when conducted by experienced trained officer are still inaccurate about 25-35 percent of the time. When the natural inaccuracy of FSTS are compounded by the expectation of the officer that a driver is impaired along with inadequate training in conducting and scoring FSTS, a substantial number of drivers may be arrested because of poor performance on FSTS that has nothing to do with being under the influence of alcohol.
If you are asked to perform FSTs by a police officer, the conventional wisdom is that you should decline. The officer has already made up his or her mind that you are intoxicated so the request that you perform FSTs is simply a way to develop enough evidence to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest. If you do decide to perform FSTs, it is imperative that you communicate any injury, illness, vertigo or other condition that may adversely impact you performance before engaging in FSTs.
Kansas DUI defense attorney Stacey Schlimmer diligently defends the Constitutional rights, freedom and driving privileges of her clients. We will carefully evaluate and raise appropriate challenges to the legal basis for your stop, police officer observations, any field sobriety or chemical blood alcohol tests and other applicable defenses. Our DUI defense law firm offers a confidential free consultation so call us today at 913-219-5424 or contact us online.