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What If I am Disabled and Forced to Take the Field Sobriety Test?

After pulling a driver over for suspected DUI, a law enforcement official often administers several field sobriety tests, three of which are standard per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These tests intend to create probable cause for a DUI arrest and serve as evidence during prosecution. Results can be damning for anyone, particularly a driver with a disability.

Truths about Field Sobriety Testing

Many drivers think that they can pass field sobriety tests but the truth is that failure is the natural result. Some drivers are so brazen as to refuse to take these tests. Though many states do not have laws requiring a driver to submit to field sobriety testing, courts interpret the regulations as granting police officers the right to require drivers to perform these tests. Refusal of the field sobriety test provides evidence for the state and courts usually interpret refusal as an admission of intoxication.

Disabled Drivers and Field Sobriety Tests

What about drivers who are disabled? Are they expected to perform the standardized one-leg stand, horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk and turn, and other field sobriety tests even if their disabilities would prevent them from passing? Many states have exceptions for these individuals. However, the onus is on the driver to immediately bring the disability to the attention of the law enforcement official.

Disabled Field Sobriety Test with a disability and not able to perform properly

Prosecutors in DUI cases focus on mental and physical impairments of drivers. Though intoxication may cause physical impairment, so can certain disabilities. Field sobriety tests are inherently subjective, notwithstanding other factors such as a disability. Being disabled only increases the subjectivity and may prevent an individual from passing some or all of these tests. Skilled lawyers have successfully challenged field sobriety test results based on test taker disabilities.

Take Action Before Submitting to a Field Sobriety Test

Before taking any field sobriety tests, drivers should tell law enforcement officials about their disabilities. During training, officers learn that certain individuals should not take field sobriety tests. Included are people with hip and back injuries and individuals with mental impairments. Testing will result in a false positive, but this does not stop some officers. They trick or force drivers into taking the tests and the rest is usually bad for the drivers.

Experts claim that there is a 99 percent chance of a DUI arrest following a car stop, regardless of the results of field sobriety testing. Even so, disabled drivers should think carefully about submitting to these tests and if forced to do so should immediately contact a DUI attorney. DUIRights.com makes this easy to do through its free online DUI arrest evaluation form.

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13 thoughts on “What If I am Disabled and Forced to Take the Field Sobriety Test?”

  1. I was in a fender bender. The 3 cars in front of me slammed on their breaks & I couldn’t break fast enough. The driver of the Ford F150 I hit only had 2 one inch scratches on his bumper. I asked him if we could settle this between the 2 of us, we had already exchanged insurance & photo IDs. He said no I want to do this the right way. After waiting 2hrs for a cop to show up, one talked to me & one spoke with him. The other driver left & they come back over to me (I work at a doctor’s office so I’m dressed in my scrubs and it’s now 7pm). They ask if I’ve been drinking, I said no. He asked are you on any drugs (I’m thinking illegal drugs) I said no but then I immediately said only my prescription medication. They made me tell them what I took. Then continued to start a field sobriety test. I told the officer I hit my knees extremely hard on the underside of my steering wheel & my legs were shaking from the pain. He asked do you have any medical conditions that might keep you from being able to perform the test. I said the only thing I could think of, that “I have osteoarthritis & bone spurs in my knees.” I also have a handicap parking permit because I cannot walk long distances & also have a back & neck injury & a metal plate with 8 screws in my neck & bad arthritis in my ankles but I forgot to tell them that part. I barely failed two of the tests so they immediately arrested me. Should I have not told them about being on prescription medications? Is that going to hurt me. I thought I knew my rights but apparently I don’t. I thought I would get in more trouble if I lied to the cop. They took me to the station and performed the breath test twice and I passed. They then asked if I would do a urine sample. I thought by doing what they asked I was doing right by myself. They sent me to jail and now I’m facing charges. What did I do wrong? And what advice can you give me to help me get the charges dropped or just anything I can do! Are police required to have their body cams on when doing an investigation like mine? I sure hope so because it will ALL be on tape. There are SO many inconsistencies in his arrest report for me! Anything you can say or do to help me would be greatly appreciated! God bless!

    Reply
    • You have a valid case to get this dismissed by an experienced DUI lawyer. It sucks that you even got the DUI since you weren’t impaired. Never do the field sobriety test. Always refuse it. Police will lie to you and say you have to do it but you don’t. Your disabilities should make the field sobriety test meaningless and your lawyer will argue this.

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  2. I ask the cop give a blood test and breathalyz test and pee test he would not do it I have a bad left leg and I also got handicaps tag he used all my disability problems on my dui I was not even dranking I was dranking a coke

    Reply
    • You have to fight this! Hopefully you have a good lawyer who can argue your case and say you volunteered testing in which the officer refused.

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  3. I am physically and mental disabled. I told the cop this. I said that I was disabled and I won’t take the field sobriety tests. The cop should now the laws. He should know that he has to offer the blood test. He did not know this so he arrested me for refusing the tests and wrote me up for DWI, in N.H. Could I bring this up at the ALS hearing at the DMV ?

    Reply
    • Did he give you or offer your the breathalyzer test? Usually that’s the primary way to test for alcohol.

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      • They offered me a breathilizer tests. I told the cop that I’m disabled. I think they know the laws and they should offer me an alternative tests. The V.A. are paying me money for my disablety for 10 years. I have pyhsical enpairments also. In fact I have to hang on to some thing when I stand up.

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        • What was the BAC result? Or did you refuse? The field sobriety test should be admissible since you are disabled. But they will use the BAC as evidence against you if you did take it.

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        • But your disability doesn’t affect your ability to do the breathing test. That’s why they are asking if you did it? If your disabilities don’t affect you performing a breathalyzer test then you should have done it. It is not illegal for them to ask you to do it.

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  4. I have a question. I chased a possible suspect of Felony robbery and felony assault on a minor. I chased this guy for about 3 minutes back to an apartment complex where I then waited in my car on the street for officers to arrive. After about 5 minutes, two officers pulled up in a patrol car and I tried to explain the story and how I became involved. My adrenaline was pumping and my anxiety was through the roof. I had trouble getting the whole story out so fast because I was so worked up. I told them I suffered from generalized anxiety disorder and depression And was asked about if I’m on prescriptions and what exactly. I was then asked if I had been drinking. I said “No, I will be sober tomorrow for four months.” They kept asking me questions like I was the bad guy and eventually I was asked to step out of the car and was going to be given a field sobriety test. I immediately stated that I was born with an orthopedic disability, a severe clubfoot, I have had lots of surgeries and that I likely would be unable to do some of the tests due to my foot. They kept insisting I do the test or I be arrested. I did the first test of standing straight up and following the top of the pen three different times. I passed perfectly each time. Next I was given another pen tip test three different times that I also passed “perfect” in the officers words each time. After that, he again questioned me asking why I couldn’t walk a straight line and, again, I told them of my condition and showed them as I was wearing shorts and sandals. He then asked me to stand straight up and tilt my head back looking at the sky and close my eyes and count to thirty seconds and when I was done to bring my head back down open my eyes and say “done”. I insisted my clubfoot was going to make me fall out of balance, given I can not stand straight for very long period and let alone do it with my eyes closed and head facing the sky. I counted and hit 32 seconds and he said I passed that one as well. He then walked away and talked with 4 other officers before the supervisor walked up and asked them what they had determined.. the supervisor turned around and said something along the lines of “young man, we appreciate your cooperation and applaud you for your heroic actions. You are free to go.” And I left. My question is, did the cops have absolutely any right to turn on me like I was the bad guy and then threaten to arrest me for dui and make me do a sobriety test at all?? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Yes the police have the right to turn on you in that situation if they feel you may be intoxicated. Once you perform any tests, it is up to the officer’s discretion to arrest you for DUI. That is why you should always refuse. Even if you are disabled. Imagine getting a DUI just because you are disabled and the officer thinks you are intoxicated. I’m glad to hear they let you go!

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  5. Calif CHP and Nevada County DA proscuting me would not list even tried to give my paperwork fors sevice dog to CHP officer They do not care only after money I will not plead Guilty Have been Disabled for 8 years with mobilty issue No body in the State Disabilty help org has help they just say we do not do criminal since when is it a cream to be diabled!!!!!!! hopw someone will help you good luck

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  6. I am a 50 year old disabled female with both physical and mental disabilities and I’ve had them most of my life. I was pulled over in Carson City Nevada I was told that he pulled me over due to a broken out window on my car covered in plastic as Law permits and fastened securely I just received the vehicle and the back window was broken out by robbers. I was on my way to the DMV to get registration for this vehicle and was informed by the DMV online services to take the plates off because when someone sells a car they take the plates so I did take them off. he said that’s why he pulled me over all of a sudden he’s asking me if I’m high on marijuana when was the last time I smoked and to get out of the car he didn’t for me he called someone to perform at field sobriety test at that point I informed both of them several times that I am disabled with mental and physical disabilities I even use a cane and take medications he asked my husband in the car worse hurricane he said right there he did not retrieve it for me even though asking me would you like your cane and I said yes. When I know I passed the field sobriety test he then began accusing me of being on methamphetamine. They claimed I did not pass I told them I could not walk a straight line I cannot stand on one foot I could not have a pain right at my nose between my eyes and focus on it without my eyeballs freaking out I wear glasses they were in the car he did not retrieve them. I told him that I had smoked marijuana which is legal… hours and hours ago I would never get in a car and drive impaired. He questioned my husband my husband concurred everything that I was saying I was not impaired I volunteered for a blood test because they said if I didn’t I was guilty and I was going down so I volunteered my blood which they hurt me very badly when they did it it was supposed to be a test for marijuana to find out what the levels were at, at the time of my driving not for drugs …. so because he couldn’t really now me for the marijuana which I think they’re on a big campaign to try to do to get it out loud again or whatever they were going to get me for something anything that’s in my system I was arrested I was never read my rights I wasn’t booked in till almost 2 days later and I wasn’t given the phone call they said the phones were broke. I have never ever washed into a dispensary and bought marijuana since it’s legal I have not gone it from a doctor since it has been legal or otherwise I do not purchase it off the street I very rarely smoke or ingest marijuana although I am in constant pain opioids are not helping with my pain so I do not take those either unless I absolutely have to I felt like I was set up I felt like someone smelled maybe marijuana and saw me smoking a cigarette that was a rolly and call the cops on me as matter fact I do this exactly what happened so if any be out there is a lawyer and then went really good case here I’ve got one because there’s a lot more to this story oh and by the way I didn’t have insurance or registration or plates or anything on this car cuz I just got it I didn’t get cited or fined or nothing for that he was after me for one reason and one reason only and I was all due to someone that was not minding his own business and is hurt me greatly hang a disabled American and a female on top of it and having a hard time already Patrick Lee has ruined my life I lose my license over this stupid stuff then imma be imma be a mentally hurt and depressed unit all over again

    Reply

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