In 2014 alone, almost 10,000 people perished because of alcohol-related car crashes, accounting for about one-third of all traffic-related casualties in the country. It’s therefore not surprising why courts mete out severe punishments to those caught driving under the influence (DUI). In the state of Washington, for instance, a person can be incarcerated for up to one year, on top of a four-year license suspension and up to $5,000 in fines.
Given the serious consequences of a DUI conviction, courts also impose stringent tests to prove a driver’s inebriation. One of these methods is the field sobriety test, which usually involves the walk and turn (WAT), the one leg stand (OLS), and the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) tests.
But as a DUI attorney in Federal Way will tell you, such field tests possess inherent flaws that can implicate even sober, innocent drivers.
Designed to Fail
Pressure and exams are never a good combo. During a field sobriety test, you are given a barrage of instructions over a short period of time. If you misunderstand any of the steps given, you may perform the test incorrectly, resulting in a false inebriation indicator.
The Field Isn’t Level
Tests like the OLS and the WAT require a relatively flat surface in order to yield accurate results. But, if you are asked to perform these tasks on sloping ground, it may be harder to keep your balance, making you more likely to fail such tests.
Keeping your balance while standing on one leg is a challenge for many people, sober or not. It is especially difficult if you suffer a medical condition or an injury that impairs your sense of balance or muscle coordination. It then becomes a nearly impossible feat.
When Eyes Deceive You
The HGN test looks at the involuntary movement of the eye as a sign of intoxication. That being said, contact lenses and certain forms of visual impairment make the eyes more likely to drift to the side, falsely indicating drunkenness.
Indeed, the biggest flaw of field sobriety tests is this: It is conducted by people on people—and both parties are far from being infallible. If you have been falsely accused or convicted of drunk driving, contact a trusted DUI lawyer in Federal Way, such as criminal defense attorney Kim Hunter.
Impaired Driving: Get the Facts, cdc.gov
Washington DUI Laws, Fines and Penalties, dui.drivinglaws.org