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Feeling lucky? Then take a field sobriety test

What does luck have to do with field sobriety tests? More than you think. That’s because the three tests that make up the Standardized Field Sobriety Test rely on the observations of the officer administering them. As you can imagine, if the officer pulled you over on suspicion of drunk driving, the odds are already against you.

Research shows that several officers trained in administering the SFST come up with different conclusions when observing the same video tape of an individual taking the tests. Some officers said that the individual was impaired while others did not. The fact of the matter is that you could flip a coin to decide whether the officer administering your tests will think you are impaired and arrest you.

This test is the worst

How is your balance? If you are like many people out there, you may have trouble standing on one leg for 30 seconds. The one-leg stand test actually leaves less room for subjectivity from the officer administering it when stacked up against the walk-and-turn and horizontal gaze nystagmus tests. Even so, it’s infamously inaccurate.

One study found that 47 percent of the sober people given this test “failed” it according to the officers administering it. You read that right. The subjects who participated in the test had not had anything to drink. Other than having poor balance, if you suffer from any of the following conditions, you could end up under arrest for DUI if you take this test:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Ear infection
  • Head injury
  • Brain issues
  • Torn menisci
  • Inner ear problems
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Herniated disk
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Circulation problems
  • Plantar warts
  • Sciatica
  • Arthritis
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Hip girth
  • Eye muscle imbalance

You get the idea, and this isn’t even a complete list. If you take certain medications or are on the older side, you may fail the test as well.

What to do

If you read this far, you may be shaking your head or mystified about how to handle the situation if a police officer asks you to participate in the SFST. Well, politely decline to participate. You are not under legal obligation to participate in these tests as you are with chemical tests under Maryland’s implied consent laws. The officer will more than likely attempt to convince you otherwise, but you are within your rights to continue to decline.

This does not mean that you won’t be arrested for DUI. However, it does eliminate another piece of supposed evidence of your intoxication that the officer needs in order to establish probable cause for an arrest.

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