How accurate are field sobriety tests?
If officers pull you over for suspected DUI, they likely will ask you to submit to a field sobriety test. Under South Carolina law, however, you have no obligation to take it, nor do you face any negative consequences if you refuse. In fact, politely declining represents your wisest course of action. Why? Because you can easily fail these tests even if you have no alcohol in your system.
The American Automobile Association cautions that not only does the field sobriety test actually consist of three separate tests, the accuracy of their results depends on numerous factors, including the following:
- Your age
- Your weight
- Any disability you have that negatively impacts your balance or walking ability
- How well the officers instruct you
- How well they observe your performance and interpret it
Horizontal gaze nystagmus test
This first test consists of the officer instructing you to stand without moving your head, but to follow with your eyes only the object he or she waves back and forth in front of your face. Supposedly, if your eyes produce jerky movements instead of smooth ones, this indicates your inebriation.
Walk and turn test
In this second test, the officer instructs you to walk forward nine steps, turn around and walk back. The catch? You must walk heel-to-toe. Supposedly, if you stumble or lose your balance, this, too, indicates your inebriation.
One-legged stand test
The third test is perhaps the most difficult one. Here the officer instructs you to stand for 30 seconds on one foot while holding up the other. Supposedly, if you cannot maintain your balance without putting your second foot down or waiving your arms, this is a final indication of your inebriation.