Field sobriety tests (FSTs) help Indiana law enforcement officers assess a driver’s level of impairment due to alcohol or drugs. However, these tests are far from foolproof, and there are several ways to challenge their results.
How field sobriety test work
Challenging FSTs begins with understanding how they work and how they apply to the criminal defense process. There are three standardized FSTs recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), the walk-and-turn (WAT), and the one-leg stand (OLS) tests. These tests have specific instructions and scoring criteria that officers are trained to follow.
Questioning the officer’s training
One way to challenge FST results is to question the officer’s training and administration of the tests. If an officer does not follow the standardized procedures or does not have proper training in administering the tests, the results may be deemed unreliable.
Challenging test accuracy
Another way to challenge FST results is to question the tests’ accuracy. The HGN test, for example, involves the officer looking for involuntary eye movements as the suspect follows a moving object with their eyes. However, some medical conditions can cause nystagmus, and certain medications can also affect eye movements.
Similarly, the WAT and OLS tests require suspects to perform physical tasks that may be difficult for some people even when sober.
Presenting concerns regarding the circumstances
In addition to questioning the accuracy of the tests themselves, it is also possible to challenge the circumstances surrounding the administration of the tests. If the suspect is wearing inappropriate footwear or has a medical condition that makes it difficult to perform the tests, the results may be unreliable.
It is also important to note that FSTs are not admissible as scientific evidence in all states. In some states, FST results can only be used to establish probable cause for an arrest, but not as evidence of guilt.
Challenging FST results
Challenging field sobriety test results involve several aspects of their administration. It is crucial to remain calm when interacting with law enforcement and be aware of the best approach for challenging FST results in your case.