What Are The Type Of Field Sobriety Tests Used In Pennsylvania?

July 6, 2021 / 9:06 pm

You have been pulled over for a driving infraction and the officer asks if you have been drinking. You were already nervous from being pulled over; now you are terrified. You can't focus. Your tired from working a long shift that day. Maybe your not feeling well. You become dizzy and now your are asked to take a field sobriety test. When you get out of the car you remember that you have balance problems in general. You have heard that police often have you walk a straight line as part of the field sobriety test. Will your balance problems hurt you now? What if you fail the test even though you were not drinking. What if you drank very little? How do you fight a test in Court?

DUI field sobriety tests usually involve balance and coordination, which many of us do not have under normal circumstances. However, the circumstances during a DUI investigation are often so stressful and distracting that it is nearly impossible to complete any field sobriety tests. Some of these field sobriety tests have no standards of administration that police follow. Tests, such as the alphabet recitation test, finger-to-nose test, finger-touch test, and sway test, have no known measure of validity. Tests, referred to as “standardized field sobriety tests,” have been studied and issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as the so-called gold standard for DUI field sobriety testing. NHTSA requires that specific rules must be followed in order for the results of these field sobriety tests to be reliable.

There are only three standardized field sobriety tests – one-leg stand, walk-and-turn, and horizontal gaze nystagmus (an eye test referred to as HGN). In Pennsylvania, the courts have determined that the results of the HGN test cannot be used as evidence. Furthermore, government sponsored studies claim that, the HGN test is accurate 77% of the time, the one-leg stand field sobriety test is only 65% accurate, the walk and turn test is 68% accurate and when all three are used together they are correct 82% of the time when deciding if someone should be arrested for drunk driving. That means the police are wrong 18% of the time when using these three tests. Using just the walk-and-turn field sobriety test the police are wrong 32% of the time!

Moreover, there are factors that further compromise the validity of these field sobriety tests. Certain medical conditions and physical injuries will render these so-called DUI tests invalid. If a person is 50 pounds overweight or is 65 years or older, then the results of the these DUI tests are invalid.

It is important that your attorney knows the standards that should have been used by the investigating police officer when administering these field sobriety tests. Attorney Craig Penglase has handled over a thousand DUI's as a Prosecutor and over a thousand as a defense attorney. He knows the tests used and how to find the weaknesses in the procedures used to help show if they have been unfairly used against you. Speak to an experienced attorney as soon as you have been pulled over and tested to find out if you have grounds for challenging these flawed tests and procedures.