We’ve blogged in the past about Field Sobriety Test reliability. To review a FST, or field sobriety test, is supposed to help officers determine whether or not a particular driver is under the influence of alcohol. The test is meant to provide objective evidence of alcohol impairment and if the person being tested fails one or more of the tests then often a arrest is made.
In a typical DWI investigation, an officer administers three field sobriety tests to a driver suspected of DWI. Recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, these three standardized FSTs are the one-leg-stand, the walk-and-turn, and the eye test, which is also known as the horizontal gaze nystagmus.
Typically if the officer is not convinced of the results of those 3 tests, he or she may administer one or two more tests in order to come to a decision of impairment.
Passing sobriety tests
A motorist in Tennessee took and passed six different roadside sobriety tests, yet was still arrested for DWI, or driving under the influence of alcohol.
The driver made a wrong turn in a construction area, and briefly drove on the wrong side of the road. This, however, was a mistake that many other confused drivers committed that particular day. The driver was pulled over by a county sheriff’s deputy.
A police officer with extensive DWI training arrived on the scene and took over the deputy’s duties. The officer asked the driver to perform a series of field sobriety tests, among these tests was a nine-step walk-and-turn.
Police officer testimony
The police officer testified on the stand that although his mental performance was excellent, the driver did not plant-and-turn as instructed. At this point, the man was placed under arrest.
The officer later admitted that he did not turn off the flashing blue lights on his car, which is standard procedure as it is known to distract individuals performing the plant-and-turn test. The trial judge reviewed that night’s footage from the police cars dashboard camera, and then rejected the officer’s conclusion.
The other field sobriety tests the driver completed were reciting the alphabet from letters G to S, the four-finger count, identifying the year he turned five, six or seven, and performing a one-legged stand while counting up to thirty.
According to the state Court of Criminal Appeals, it was improper to arrest the individual even after passing the DWI tests.
The county circuit court judge believes that the man did very well on the field sobriety tests, and even said he did better than most drivers he’s ever seen. The judge agreed that his initial pulling over of the vehicle was legitimate, but then permitted a suppression motion because he felt the arrest was unnecessary and went too far.
The appellate panel made up of three judges also viewed the footage and took the side of the trial judge.
DWI and Field Sobriety Tests in Minnesota
If you’re charged with DWI in Minnesota, your field sobriety test performance may play a factor in your case, call the Kans Law Firm, LLC at (952) 835-6314 for a free consultation and case evaluation.