When a police officer suspects that you’re driving drunk, his first response will be to pull you over and test your abilities to focus. If you wind up failing his tests, you’ll be accused of driving under the influence (DUI), which can be considered either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances. Even a first-time DUI accusation can result in extreme consequences and penalties if you’re convicted.
Unfortunately, the field sobriety tests (FST) that law enforcement officials use to determine intoxication are not reliable. The basic premise of each test is to see whether alcohol has affected your focus, balance, and attention. However, these tests are known to give false positive results, depending on certain factors.
This means that your future could be jeopardized even if you’re completely innocent, as a result of simple misunderstandings, miscommunications, or factors beyond your control.
Innocent Failures: Factors That Can Contribute to a Failed Sobriety Test
It’s important to know that you have the right to refuse to take a field sobriety test. However, people who refuse are usually arrested and taken to the nearest police station, hospital, or state police office where a breath or blood test can be performed.
When you agree to take a field sobriety test, you’ll be subjected to one or more of six exercises. These exercises will test your balance, your focus, your ability to pay attention, and the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream. However, any number of things besides alcohol can affect the results. For example, if you have an inner ear infection, your balance may be unreliable.
Unfortunately, many police officers will not take such factors into consideration when charging you. This means that even though you may not have had anything to drink, a police report illustrating the failed test could wind up convicting you of a DUI offense.
Other factors that could affect FST results include:
- Footwear. Women wearing high heels may have a more difficult time walking and balancing.
- Pavement conditions.
- Weather conditions. Slippery sidewalks, rain, or low temperatures can affect concentration and stability.
- Natural instability or physical injury. A bad hip or naturally poor balance can result in a failed test.
- Prescription medications. Some medications can cause your eyes to tremble or cause balance difficulties.
- Low blood sugar
- Poor instructions or miscommunication. If the officer didn’t adequately explain what you were supposed to do, you may not complete the test successfully.
- Dentures. Artificial teeth can interfere with a breathalyzer chemical test.
- Asthma. Both asthma and the use of a medical inhaler can potentially affect the breathalyzer reading.
The Test Was Bad. What Happens Next?
If you believe that you failed a field sobriety test due to one or more of these factors, a Virginia DUI attorney may be able to help clear up the situation and keep you from a criminal conviction. For more information on how to fight charges and avoid legal consequences, contact us today at (804) 835-5127 for a free consultation.