- Disabilities Affect Test Results: Drivers with disabilities may struggle with standard field sobriety tests, leading to potentially unfair outcomes.
- Subjectivity of Tests: These tests are subjective and may not accurately reflect the abilities of disabled drivers, which can be challenged legally.
- Inform Officers and Seek Help: Drivers should inform officers of any disabilities and consider legal assistance.
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.
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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.
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 DUI rights 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.
10 Disabilities and their Influence on Field Sobriety Test Performance
- Visual Impairments: Individuals with impaired vision may struggle with tests requiring eye tracking or focused vision, such as the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test.
- Hearing Impairments: Those with hearing difficulties might not fully understand verbal instructions from officers, leading to challenges in accurately completing the tests.
- Physical Disabilities: Conditions that affect mobility, balance, or coordination, such as cerebral palsy or a leg injury, can make physical tasks like walking in a straight line or standing on one leg difficult.
- Neurological Disorders: Conditions like epilepsy or multiple sclerosis can impact coordination and balance, skewing results of physical sobriety tests.
- Diabetes: Low or high blood sugar levels in diabetics can mimic signs of intoxication, such as dizziness or disorientation, potentially leading to false positives in sobriety tests.
- Speech Impairments: Difficulty in speech, which might be due to conditions like a stroke or cerebral palsy, can be misinterpreted as a sign of intoxication during verbal interactions.
- Mental Health Conditions: Conditions like anxiety or PTSD can affect a person’s ability to understand and follow instructions under stress, impacting their performance in field sobriety tests.
- Arthritis: This condition can impact joint movement and pain levels, making it difficult to perform physical tasks required in some field sobriety tests.
- Vertigo: Individuals suffering from vertigo may have trouble with balance, which is often tested in field sobriety tests, leading to potential misinterpretation of results.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): People with ASD might face challenges with social interaction, communication, and motor coordination, affecting their ability to perform and respond during field sobriety tests.
Understanding these disabilities and their potential impact on field sobriety tests is crucial for fair and accurate DUI assessments. It’s important for law enforcement to consider these factors and for individuals to seek legal support if they believe their disability affected their DUI stop outcome.
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 rights attorney. DUIRights.com makes this easy to do through its free online DUI arrest evaluation form.
DUIRights Support is comprised of legal writers and attorneys who are able to generate useful information about issues relating to DUI. Please use all information at your own discretion and never use the information as legal advice without consulting with an attorney.