Failing a Field Sobriety Test When You’re Sober: It Happens More Than You’d Think

How many times have you read online news sources in Phoenix and found a story about a DUI offender that denied drinking prior to their arrest? You probably rolled your eyes, thinking that the individual was just trying to get away with something. Even if a blood, breath, or urine alcohol content test was not administered at the scene, failing the field sobriety test with flying colors is sign enough of intoxication…right?

As it turns out, the science behind these field sobriety tests is shaky when it comes to certain medical conditions. Designed to evaluate the sobriety of a healthy, average-sized person, many people with very common conditions fail field sobriety tests. Police officers are trained to inquire about possible medical conditions that may affect field sobriety testing prior to administering the tests, but officers may fail to do so—meaning that the defendant may have a solid defense to avoid DUI charges.

On top of medical conditions that may affect the outcome of a field sobriety test, there are other everyday conditions that can greatly influence test results, including:

  • Being over the age of 65: Arizona is home to many senior citizens for much of the year, and these individuals may have a very difficult time with balance, dexterity, and vision tests.
  • Being overweight: For individuals who are obese or very overweight, sobriety tests involving balance may be exceptionally challenging.
  • Knee, back, or ankle pain: Back pain is one of the most common injuries that keeps people home from work, and people with pain or weakness in their legs, feet, or back may perform poorly in field sobriety balance tests.
  • Anxiety: When you are in a rush to get to work and your anxiety is high, you may notice that you seem clumsier than usual. The same anxiety can affect you in a field sobriety test, causing poor performance in dexterity and balance tests.

Failing a field sobriety test because of the above conditions may not get you out of a ticket altogether—if you were speeding or driving recklessly, you will still face consequences—but it can mean that you can shake unjust DUI charges. Speak with our firm today to discuss your concerns about your own Arizona DUI arrest in a free consultation.