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Could a Sober Person Fail a Field Sobriety Test?

Posted on in DUI/DWI

Knox County DUI defense lawyerThe short answer is “yes.” Absolutely, a person who has had nothing to drink and has not taken any other mind-altering substance can still fail a field sobriety test. There are quite a few factors other than intoxication that can cause a person who is perfectly sober to make a mistake during field sobriety tests. Unfortunately, field sobriety tests are one of the very few tools police officers have to decide whether to arrest a driver for DUI on the spot. 

Many of these tests are also highly subjective or very difficult to prove with empirical evidence. There is also the potential that a police officer may be less than truthful about what he observed. If you were arrested for driving sober because you had a hard time with field sobriety tests, it would be in your best interest to find an aggressive DUI attorney. 

What Could Cause a Sober Person to Fail a Field Sobriety Test?

In general, there are three types of field sobriety tests that are most commonly used in Tennessee. The walk-and-turn test and the one-leg stand test are both meant to assess whether a person’s balance has been affected by a substance. However, there are a myriad of issues other than sobriety that can affect a person’s balance during these tests, including: 

  • Footwear - If you were wearing heels, sandals, or shoes with poor grip, you could have a harder time balancing. Sandals can slip around the foot, causing you to slide and appear unbalanced. Heels are very difficult to achieve perfect balance in during these tests, even for a habitual wearer. 
  • Ground surface - Since these tests are performed typically on the side of the road, you may not always have a flat, level surface to work with. If you were asked to walk a straight line on a sloped surface, or to stand on one foot on an uneven gravel path, you may not have had a reasonable chance to appear well-balanced no matter how sober you were. 
  • Wind and weather - Certain weather conditions can make balancing harder. Strong winds can make balancing on one leg hard. Rain can get in your eyes or impair your view and cause a brief loss of balance. Muddy roadsides can cause you to slip or slide. 
  • Health issues - Illnesses like the flu or inner ear problems can affect balance. 

As for the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, a number of health issues can change how your eyes will appear when following a light or pen held in front of your face. Glaucoma, epilepsy, and muscular dystrophy are just a few examples. Additionally, if you have been staring at a screen or otherwise straining your eyes all day, this could also trigger a false positive on this test. 

Call a Knox County DUI Lawyer

If you have been charged with DUI, The Law Office of William F. Evans has the level of experience you need. Our Knoxville DUI attorneys are skilled at identifying and raising all possible defenses. Call us at 423-449-7980 to schedule your free consultation. 



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