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Failing a field sobriety test is easier than you might think

Whether you're heading back into Norman from Oklahoma City, leaving an OU game or simply heading home from your favorite restaurant here in town, a police officer may pull you over. If the way you were driving somehow aroused the suspicions of the officer, he or she could start asking you questions about your drinking habits.

The officer may ask you to participate in some field sobriety tests. Since you haven't had anything to drink, you may think that passing them won't be a problem. In reality, failing these tests is often easier than passing them.

Do sober people actually fail field sobriety tests?

They do, and more often than you would probably believe. Any number of illnesses or injuries, whether chronic or acute, could affect your ability to make it through field sobriety tests without failing. Granted, most people could pass the walk and turn test without much difficulty, but the other two tests ordinarily given by police officers are not quite so simple.

The law enforcement community attempts to portray the horizontal gaze nystagmus test as infallible since it appears to accurately detect impairment. However, other conditions such as the following may cause you to fail this test:

  • Eye diseases
  • Head trauma
  • Stroke
  • Medications
  • Inner ear diseases
  • Thiamine deficiencies
  • B-12 deficiencies

As you can see, drunkenness isn't the only condition that could cause a failure of this test. The same goes for the one-leg stand test. If you have balance issues, you will probably fail it. All of the above, plus other injuries or illnesses, could all affect your ability to balance on one leg for up to 30 seconds.

What can you do?

At this point, you may be thinking that the deck is stacked against you, and you would more than likely be correct. The good news is that you can do one thing that will guarantee you don't fail these field sobriety tests -- don't take them. The law does not require you to participate in these tests. They do not fall within the implied consent you gave when you got your Oklahoma driver's license.

The officer who pulled you over will try to convince you one way or another to participate in these tests so that he or she can establish probable cause to arrest you on suspicion of DUI. Sadly, you may still end up under arrest even if you don't participate in the tests, but at least you did not provide the officer with another reason to do so.

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