Texas drivers suspected of DUI / DWI typically must perform field sobriety tests prior to being placed under arrest. However, these “tests” aren’t like the ones we took in school, because the driver is destined to fail. Field sobriety tests’ sole purpose is to create probable cause for a drunk driving arrest and provide evidence for a court prosecution. Anyone subjected to a field sobriety test during a Fort Bend driving while intoxicated arrest should consult with a Texas lawyer who focuses on drunk driving criminal defense.

There are two types of field sobriety tests – standardized and non-standardized. Non-standardized tests are so unreliable as measuring tools of alcohol intoxication that they aren’t even endorsed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These non-standardized tests include the finger-to-nose test, the finger-tap test, the hand-pat test, the Rhomberg balance test, the ABCs, and the numbers backward test.

Non-standardized field sobriety tests are particularly susceptible to court challenges because they are not recognized by the NHTSA. These tests have no objective scoring system, and whether the driver “passes” or “fails” hinges solely on the officer’s subjective opinion.

Even though field sobriety tests are supposedly designed to measure the mental and physical impairment caused by alcohol and drug use, many of the “symptoms” police look for can be caused by physical problems unrelated to drinking..

To understand why this is critically important to a successful Texas DUI / DWI defense, it’s helpful to understand how alcohol affects the human body. Experts concur that alcohol use always causes mental impairment before physical impairment occurs. Drivers with a high tolerance for alcohol are often able to disguise physical impairment, but mental impairment cannot be masked.

Many factors unrelated to alcohol use can cause an accused drunk driver to display signs of physical impairment, such as illness, injury, fatigue, or even nervousness. If the driver showed no signs of mental impairment, any physical problems must have stemmed from a source other than alcohol use, and the defendant cannot be convicted of driving while intoxicated.

Field sobriety tests aren’t recommended for many drivers, including individuals over the age of 65, people who are more than 50 pounds overweight, or drivers with back or leg injuries. Despite this, police often direct these individuals to perform a field sobriety test. Most officers fail to even mention that performing a field sobriety test is optional.

Fortunately, the prosecutor in a Texas drunk driving case carries the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction. Driving while intoxicated cases are largely built upon circumstantial evidence such as field sobriety tests, and that evidence is open to challenge. A skilled DUI attorney is familiar with the inherent flaws in non-standard field sobriety tests, and can create reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors.

Fort Bend DUI / DWI defense lawyer David Hunter will determine whether factors other than alcohol use affected the driver’s performance on a field sobriety test. The results of field sobriety tests can and have been successfully challenged in court.