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Common Field Sobriety Test Mistakes

Common Field Sobriety Test Mistakes

In order to arrest you and charge you with driving under the influence, law enforcement must establish probable cause, which is a legal term for a confirmed suspicion that a crime has been committed. In order to legally establish probable cause, law enforcement will often ask you to complete a field sobriety test, which is a task designed to show whether or not you are intoxicated with a fairly high degree of accuracy. What many people mistakenly believe is that these tests are infallible—you might be shocked to learn that these tests are notoriously inaccurate and law enforcement personnel make mistakes when administering these tests all the time. Let’s take a closer look at these errors and how they could affect your case.


One of the largest flaws with field sobriety tests is that they are prone to influence from subjectivity, otherwise known as “confirmation bias.” Law enforcement officers suspect you might be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and thus they’re going to closely scrutinize your every move. This scrutiny often leads to false positives and mistaken beliefs that officers witnessed something that wasn’t there. This often leads to false arrests and unjust admissions of evidence against you.

Outside Influences

Many field sobriety tests are unfairly influenced by external factors that are outside of the subject’s control. For example, in the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, an officer holds up a pen or small object and asks someone to track its movement without moving their head. Normally, jerky and uncontrolled eye movements are signs of intoxication, passing cars and flashing lights in unfamiliar settings can all cause someone to divert their attention accidentally. This is particularly true for people who suffer from an attention-deficit issue and have little to no control over this reflex. As a result, the officer spots a false positive and wrongfully makes your arrest.

Test Difficulty

Can you stand up on one foot for an extended length of time? What about doing it while pointing your other toes outward and staring up at the sky? This is difficult for most people to do sober, so who’s to say that failing to do so is any indication that you might be intoxicated? Failing one of these tests could lead to you being arrested and charged with driving under the influence, even when you’re not even when you’re entirely sober.

Have you been charged with driving under the influence? Reach out to a Bergen County DUI attorney from Brickfield and Donahue by calling (201) 574-7919 and let our team help you fight back against your charges, including unlawful arrests.