Extending Your Student Visa

A student visa that lets you study at the university of your choice is a terrific thing for you. But what happens if your studies take longer than you planned? On top of exams and term papers, you may have to worry about your student visa expiring. That’s where an immigration lawyer can be your best friend. Understanding how immigration laws work can be the first step to making sure that you keep your student visa in good standing. My blog is all about immigration issues, especially those faced by foreign students. Check out the articles for more information that you can use to complete your studies in the country you chose to study in.

Is Failing A Field Sobriety Test Proof Of Drunk Driving?

Law Articles

For much of the general population, failing a field sobriety test is absolute proof of guilt. What many people don't know is that failing a field sobriety test is in no way proof that the person was driving while intoxicated. The tests are imperfect, inaccurate, and flawed in many ways. Here you will learn how a skilled attorney can defend you if you've been wrongfully accused of driving under the influence because of a failed field sobriety test.

What is a Field Sobriety Test?

The term "field sobriety test" refers to any of a number of observations a police officer can make to determine whether their subject is intoxicated. The standard procedure for administering a field sobriety test differs according to region, but can include any of the following:

  • Observation of the subject's complexion
  • Observation of the subject's speech patterns
  • Testing for horizontal gaze nystagmus (also called "eye bouncing" or "eye jerking")
  • Testing the subject's large muscle coordination and balance, such as walking in a straight line
  • Observing the subject's small muscle coordination, such as by watching them take their license out of their wallet
  • Testing for confusion or poor cognitive function, such as by having the subject recite the alphabet backward

To a layman, these may seem like foolproof ways to tell if a person is intoxicated, but these tests are anything but foolproof.

What are the Fallacies of Observing a Stranger?

One of the ways an officer decides whether to proceed with field sobriety testing is to observe the person's complexion for redness that seems out of the ordinary, and their speech for slurring. These observations have obvious flaws. How does the officer know what your normal complexion is? How does he or she know you're not blushing for an unrelated reason? As for speech, some people slur their speech without being intoxicated. Some local dialects are slurred as well, so if you have an accent, it could be mistaken as slurring. 

There are many causes other than intoxication to explain why a person may appear to have been drinking, and there is no way for the officer to confirm their suspicions without a field sobriety test. This leads to the next topic...

What are the Fallacies of the Field Sobriety Test?

The sobriety test itself is subject to error. It's difficult to accurately assess another person's capabilities without having prior knowledge of their idiosyncrasies. For example:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus can be caused by a variety of neurological conditions, and police officers are not always properly trained in the administration of the test.
  • Walking a straight line and standing on one leg are tasks to which some people are ill suited. Being clumsy doesn't mean the same thing has being intoxicated, but sometimes this test is treated that way.
  • Cognitive tests like reciting the alphabet backward are subject to the person's education level and preparedness for the test. Intoxicated people who have practiced for this test can perform much better than someone who has never driven drunk, but was not expecting to answer such a question.

All together, the field sobriety tests can have a margin of error between 9 and 19 percent. That is significant, and can be grounds for the reasonable doubt juries look for.

As you can see, being accused of driving while intoxicated and failing a field sobriety test is not a guarantee of guilt. Police officers are human and can make mistakes. Most people trust the system until they wind up on the wrong side of it. Don't let yourself take such a damaging black mark on your record. Hire a qualified attorney from a firm like Caplan & Tamburino Law Firm PA to prove your innocence.


2 January 2015