Field sobriety tests are designed to be tough when you’re drunk. If you fail, police take that as reasonable suspicion that you’re intoxicated, and they can arrest you.
The problem is that the tests are often hard to pass even if you’ve had nothing to drink. While logic says that they should be easy for a sober person and hard for a drunk person, thus setting the two apart, that’s realistically not the case.
One expert said that the tests were more subjective than informative. For one thing, while they may work in a controlled environment, doing them in the dark on the side of the highway is just not the same.
A number of sober people decided to take them for a study to find out if they’d pass. Even they struggled with the tests.
One person had to do the walk-and-turn test, which checks how well you follow directions and how good your balance is. That person already had balance issues and made mistakes on the test.
Another woman messed up the instructions for that test, doing it incorrectly. She also had to recite the alphabet, and she made mistakes there, as well. She noted afterward that she had two kids and hadn’t been sleeping as much as she should have.
This study sheds some light on these tests. At two in the morning, an officer may assume that these little errors mean a person is intoxicated, but the study shows that other factors can also cause people to struggle. This could lead to an arrest anyway, and so people must know their legal rights.
Source: NBC, “Passing a Field Sobriety Test Difficult – Drunk or Sober,” Henry Graff, accessed Dec. 07, 2017