man taking field sobriety tests next to a police officer

Are Field Sobriety Tests Reliable?

Should I Take Standardized Filed Sobriety Tests Following a DUI Arrest?

When you have been pulled over by a highway patrol officer, it is important to realize that they are first acting on suspicion only. They do not know if you are actually driving under the influence (DUI) or not, and they will need to figure that out. How can they do this? Field sobriety and breath – or breathalyzer – tests conducted right at the curb, of course.

Field sobriety tests (FST) typically involve standing on one foot, walking a straight line, or following a bright flashlight with your pupils. They sound pretty simple so they should be pretty easy to pass, right? Wrong. There are so many components that make FSTs unreliable. First of all, your nerves or the condition of the roadway could make a one-foot balancing act difficult. Secondly, what about gauging someone’s ability to touch their nose is scientific? The officer needs to use their discretion to determine if you are sober or not, and even the best law enforcer can have major lapses in judgement.

Electronic breathalyzer tests are not much better. They are supposed to accurately display your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level by measuring the number of minute particles of ethanol in a puff of your breath, but precise calibration is required for an instrument so sensitive. Even a mundane problem like low battery power can make the device report a false reading that is above the limit. Consider this as well: if you belch just before using a breathalyzer, the device is sure to grab way more alcohol particulates than there actually are in your breath and blood.

The Right to Refuse

What most people do not know is that you do have the right to refuse taking a field sobriety test, which includes a roadside breathalyzer test, without immediate consequences. You can tell the arresting officer that you do not trust in the reliability of such tests and would like to use your right to refuse taking them. At that point, they may inform you that you will have to take a chemical test back at the station. 9 out of 10 times, you will want to submit to chemical testing, as refusal will automatically revoke your license.

What if the chemical test says your BAC is over the limit, though? Not to worry! At the Law Offices of Mitch Furman, our Chicago DUI attorney is here to protect you. With our years of experience in handling all sorts of DUI and criminal defense cases, we have learned numerous ways that can show that even blood, breath, and urine testing can be unreliable, and therefore successfully challenged in court. Call 312.651.4206 today for more information about our legal services.

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