How accurate are field sobriety tests?

On Behalf of | Feb 5, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

In North Carolina, officers sometimes use field sobriety tests. It is a tool that helps them detect potentially impaired drivers. Based on results, they choose if they wish to do further testing. Blood and breath tests are the most common follow-ups. But how accurate are field sobriety tests on their own? looks at the history of field sobriety tests. In what may be surprising news, field sobriety tests are not as accurate as many think. Before the standardization of these tests, the accuracy rating was below 50 percent. The board running these experiments picked the three tests with the highest accuracy. These soon became known as the standardized field sobriety tests. After their standardization, accuracy rose. But the highest level of test accuracy remained 77 percent. 

When officers use all three standardized tests, accuracy jumps to 82 percent. But this still leaves an 18 percent chance for inaccuracies. Not only that, but there are many explanations for failed field sobriety tests. As an example, health conditions can affect balance. If a person with one of these conditions takes the walk-and-turn test, they may fail. It has nothing to do with how sober they are. It is only a result of their general health. 

This is why field sobriety tests are a first line of testing. You will not see the opposition rely on field sobriety test results alone in their case. Though it can feel frightening to face DUI-related charges of any sort, keep this in mind. Know that a failed field sobriety test does not prove your guilt.