Can being overly tired make you fail a DUI field test?

On Behalf of | Apr 9, 2024 | Drunk Driving

Maryland can be strict with DUI offenders. They face hefty penalties such as fines, license suspension and even jail time.

Field sobriety tests are one way law enforcement officers try to determine whether a driver could be under the influence. However, these tests may not always provide accurate results, especially if the individual is excessively tired.

Common field sobriety tests

In Maryland, law enforcement officers commonly use three standard types of field sobriety tests to assess a driver’s sobriety: the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk-and-turn test and the one-leg stand test.

The HGN test involves the officer observing the driver’s eye movements as they horizontally follow a moving object, such as a pen or flashlight. Nystagmus, an involuntary jerking of the eyes, can indicate impairment. However, fatigue can also cause nystagmus, potentially leading to a false indication of intoxication.

During the walk-and-turn test, the driver should take a certain number of steps in a straight line, heel-to-toe, then turn and walk back in the same manner. Balance and coordination are under scrutiny during this test. However, fatigue can affect these abilities. It can cause poor performance for someone sober who has fatigue.

In the one-leg stand test, the driver must stand on one foot while keeping the other foot raised a few inches off the ground for a specified duration. This test evaluates balance and concentration. However, fatigue can impair these skills, leading to difficulty maintaining balance even for a sober individual.

The impact of fatigue

Fatigue can mimic the effects of alcohol consumption on the body. Being tired may impair coordination, balance and cognitive function. Consequently, excessively tired individuals may perform poorly on field sobriety tests, even without the consumption of alcohol or drugs.

Law enforcement officials must consider factors such as fatigue when interpreting the results of field sobriety tests.

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