schedule your consultation865-281-1000

Valuable Information You Should Know About Field Sobriety Tests in Tennessee

 Posted on January 20,2023 in DUI/DWI/BUI

Knox County Criminal Defense LawyerBeing pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving is never a fun experience. Typically, police officers ask a series of questions to drivers suspected of driving under the influence, including “Have you had anything to drink tonight?” Regardless of the answer, the officer may ask the subject to perform a series of field sobriety tests. These tests are intended to assess a person’s intoxication level. However, medical problems, injuries, and even obesity can prevent a person from completing field sobriety tests accurately.

What Are Field Sobriety Tests?

Field sobriety tests are physical actions that a person suspected of driving under the influence may be asked to perform. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recognizes a battery of three different tests as “Standardized Field Sobriety Tests” or “SFSTs.” One requires the person to stand on one foot without falling over or putting the other foot down. Another requires the person to visually follow a moving object while the officer assesses the driver for signs of “horizontal gaze nystagmus,” an involuntary eye movement indicative of intoxication. The third test requires the driver to walk heel-to-toe along a straight line while counting steps, then to turn and walk back along the same line to the starting point.

In some cases, officers will deviate from the SFSTs and ask the drivers to recite the alphabet or count numbers backwards to assess their cognitive functioning. These types of tests have even lower degrees of reliability as evidence in DUI cases.

Are Field Sobriety Tests an Accurate Assessment of Intoxication?

Field sobriety tests can be useful, but they are not perfect. The NHTSA even acknowledges that when the SFSTs are conducted properly, their accuracy rate is under 90 percent. This means that it is completely possible for someone to fail a field sobriety test while sober. Medical problems that affect a person’s balance and coordination, physical disabilities, obesity, and anxiety can interfere with a person’s ability to complete a field sobriety test.

Failing a field sobriety test does not automatically mean a person will be convicted of drunk driving. To secure a conviction, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person was too intoxicated to drive safely.

Do I Have to Take a Field Sobriety Test?

Police officers may make it seem as if submitting to field sobriety testing is mandatory. However, Tennessee drivers do have the right to refuse a field sobriety test. Refusing a breath or blood alcohol test when the officer has probable cause to request such testing will lead to the suspension of the person’s driver’s license. However, there are no administrative or criminal consequences for refusing field sobriety tests. That being said, refusing a test does not stop the officer from placing you under arrest and taking you to the police station.

Often, field sobriety tests are used to justify a drunk driving arrest. If an officer asks you to complete a field sobriety test, they probably already have reasons to believe that you are driving impaired.

Contact a Knox County Drunk Driving Defense Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been arrested for driving under the influence, contact an experienced Knoxville DUI defense lawyer at Jeffrey Coller, Knoxville Criminal Defense Attorney for help. Call 865-281-1000 for a free consultation and case review with a member of our team today.



Share this post:
Back to Top