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Will I Get a DUI If I Fail a Field Sobriety Test in Illinois?

Posted on in DUI

Kane County Criminal Defense LawyerMost charges for driving under the influence (DUI) result from traffic stops. Often, field sobriety tests are used to assess a driver for signs of intoxication prior to the DUI arrest and subsequent charges. If you are like many people, you may wonder: Will I get a DUI if I fail a field sobriety test? What if I failed because of a medical problem? Are field sobriety tests even accurate?

Field Sobriety Tests and Drunk Driving Charges

When a police officer suspects someone of driving under the influence, he or she may use two types of tests to evaluate the person for signs of intoxication: chemical blood alcohol tests such as a breathalyzer and field sobriety tests. The results of these two preliminary tests are often used to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest.

Failing a field sobriety test may give a police officer sufficient reason to put a driver in handcuffs and take him or her to the police station for further assessment. However, failing a field sobriety test does not necessarily mean that DUI charges will become a DUI conviction. There are many different DUI defense strategies that may be used to avoid conviction.

It is important to note that drivers have the right to refuse a field sobriety test. There is no penalty for refusing a field sobriety test. Refusing a test does not mean that you will avoid getting arrested for DUI, but it does reduce the evidence the prosecution has against you during your DUI case.

Are Field Sobriety Tests Reliable?

Field sobriety tests are often criticized because the test is largely subjective. The test is based on the officer’s personal assessment of the driver’s actions. Furthermore, medical conditions, injuries, and even anxiety can influence a test taker's ability to perform the actions requested of him or her during the test.

A study published in Law and Human Behavior described the reliability of the tests as “mediocre” and stated that the research supporting field sobriety tests is limited. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s own instructor guide lists the accuracy of field sobriety tests as follows:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test: 88 percent accurate

  • Walk and Turn test: 79 percent accurate

  • One Leg Stand test:  83 percent accurate

Medical conditions, obesity, injuries, and other issues can cause a completely sober person to fail a test. Tests may also be flawed because they are administered by unqualified or inexperienced police officers. As you can see, field sobriety tests are not foolproof and failing a test does not automatically mean you will be convicted of drunk driving.

Contact a Kane County DUI Defense Lawyer

If you or a loved one were charged with drunk driving, contact Elgin criminal defense lawyer Brian J. Mirandola for help. Mr. Mirandola has practiced criminal defense for over 20 years and spent seven years as assistant county prosecutor. The team at the The Law Office of Brian J. Mirandola know how to craft a powerful defense against DUI charges and ensure that clients’ rights are protected. Call 847-488-0889 for a free consultation.

 

Sources:

https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.gov/files/documents/sfst_ig_refresher_manual.pdf

https://www.jstor.org/stable/25144630?origin=JSTOR-pdf

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