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Can roadside sobriety tests be challenged in OWI defense?

Imagine this scenario: You are pulled over for suspected drunk driving by a police officer. The officer asks you to complete three roadside sobriety tests. Typically, field sobriety tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, to detect involuntary eye movement, the walk and turn, to test coordination, and the one-leg stand, to check balance. How would you do performing these tasks?

Even if you struggle to complete field sobriety tests effectively, it does not mean you are automatically guilty of an OWI. Several factors can influence the reliability of these tests, and can be challenged as part of your defense against OWI charges.

Below are three ways roadside sobriety tests can be challenged in court:

  1. There are flaws in the tests that make them unreliable. Studies have shown that, even when performed properly, field sobriety tests are only 81 to 91 percent effective in determining intoxication.
  2. The officer failed to administer tests correctly. In many cases, the arresting officer may not have executed the tests in accordance with National Highway Traffic Safety Guidelines. For example, the officer may have used additional tests that have been found to be unreliable, such as reciting the alphabet backwards or touching your finger to your nose.
  3. Mental or physical conditions were not considered. Many individuals have conditions that may impact the results of field sobriety tests. This can include neurological disorders that effect eye movement, movement or skeletal disorders that influence coordination or inner ear conditions that create balance issues.

It is important to protect your legal rights when facing OWI charges, particularly when they involve roadside sobriety tests as evidence against you. Be sure you have experienced legal representation on your side to provide you with a strong defense.

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