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Poking Holes in Field Sobriety Tests--Identifying the Tests' Weaknesses

 Posted on January 01, 2019 in Uncategorized

An individual suspected of driving under the influence appeared before a judge on January 23, 2019, following an accident that injured a young child. The driver was arrested after failing field sobriety tests that were performed after the crash. The driver's DWI defense attorney stated that he does not believe the driver was under the influence at the time of the accident.

Field sobriety tests have been used for decades to demonstrate that a person is impaired at the time he or she was pulled over. The tests, however, are often inaccurate, meaning even sober people fail them. Here's an overview of what you should know about these tests.

Problems with Field Sobriety Tests

The Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) consists of three tests: the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk-and-turn, and the one-leg stand. While these tests can be accurate, more often then you may think, the SFSTs prove inaccurate. A seasoned DWI defense attorney will come to battle armed with ways to challenge the test results.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

A horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test requires a person to follow an object in an officer's hand with his or her eyes while keeping his or her head still. Twitching of the eyes can be a sign of intoxication.

The problem with this test is that intoxication is not the only condition causing nystagmus. Things as severe as trauma caused by brain damage or as simple as inner ear conditions can detrimentally affect the way a person performs this test. In addition, certain prescription medications for conditions like seizures can cause nystagmus.


During this test, you are instructed to walk in a straight line, turn, and walk back. This is difficult for an intoxicated person to do, and swaying or hopping can be clues of impairment.

Many other factors aside from intoxication can cause a person to fail the walk-and-turn test, too. Examples of challenges your attorney could assert include:

  • The ground was slippery or uneven in the area the test was performed.
  • The individual suffers from balance problems.
  • The driver has issues with his or her legs, hips, or back that prevent the person from being able to walk in a straight line.

One-Leg Stand

The one-leg stand is self-explanatory--a person is asked to balance on one leg for thirty seconds.

The one-leg stand is the least accurate of the three standard field sobriety tests because of the number of outside factors that can cause a person to fail the test. These factors include:

  • Balance problems;
  • A slippery test surface;
  • Uneven ground; and
  • Injuries which affect a person's balance.

Facing a DWI Charge? Leave Your Defense to Us

If you have been charged with driving while impaired in Houston or a surrounding area in Texas, it's critical to be proactive about handling your charge. One of the best ways to do so is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after your arrest.

Board Certified DWI defense attorney Doug Murphy is ready to step up to the plate and alleviate your stress by fighting your DWI charge on your behalf. Don't wait until it is too late to get the representation you need and deserve from an attorney you can trust. To speak with a member of our legal team about your charge, fill out an online contact form or call 713-229-8333 today.

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