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  • Coastal South Law

Why Field Sobriety Tests are Not That Reliable

If you have been charged with DWI in North Carolina, you may feel like your fate has been sealed. DWI is a serious charge, particularly in North Carolina, and can come with consequences. Luckily, your conviction is not set in stone just because you were charged. Many people are incorrectly charged with DWI based on subjective assessments by officers. For instance, you can actually be arrested in North Carolina just for seeming like you are driving drunk, even if your blood alcohol level is only a .01. While breathalyzer tests are objective in that they return a specific amount, they are not always used properly or even available. Many times, officers use field sobriety tests, known as standardized and non-standardized field sobriety tests, to determine intoxication in the field. These tests differ from breathalyzer tests in that they are highly subjective.

Standardized vs. Non-Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

Standardized field sobriety tests have been approved by the National Highway Safety and Traffic Administration, unlike non-standardized field sobriety tests. However, despite the approval, studies still reflect that these tests are far from reliable. Standardized tests that you may recognize include having to balance and stand on one foot, following an officer’s finger from one side to another with your eyes, and walking and turning on command. Non-standardized field sobriety tests are not approved and include things like saying the alphabet forwards or backwards, touching your finger to your nose, and counting forward or backwards to certain numbers. If you were arrested based on the results of a non-standardized field sobriety test, a criminal defense attorney can likely make sure that the test results are inadmissible, this will also likely lead to the charges being dismissed.

Why Field Sobriety Tests are Inaccurate

While standardized field sobriety tests can sometimes indicate intoxication, there are many other things that can cause a person to “fail” these tests aside from intoxication. For instance, people with diabetes, knee problems, and any number of physical disabilities, may struggle to stand on one foot. Additionally, studies show that these tests are only likely to reveal intoxication when someone’s blood alcohol level is over .10. There are a number of factors unrelated to alcohol that can cause someone to perform sub-par on one of these tests. For instance, someone standing on uneven or slippery ground, in high heels or uncomfortable shoes, or who has one leg shorter than the other, may all fail to balance on one foot, and it would have nothing to do with being intoxicated. If you were arrested on the basis of a faulty test result, your lawyer can help you challenge the results so that they are not used against you in court.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you are facing DWI charges in North Carolina, it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact the lawyers at Coastal South Law today to schedule a consultation and find out how we can help fight for the best possible outcome in your case.


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