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Sobering facts regarding inaccurate field sobriety tests

Are you one of many Tennessee residents who never quite grew out of the clumsy stage of their pubescent years? If so, you've more than likely experienced more than one embarrassing moment in which you tripped over your own two feet. Overall, it's not really a problem other than small injuries to your pride, except of course, if a police officer is asking you why you can't seem to successfully balance on one foot.

If an officer pulls you over in a traffic stop, let's say because he or she claims your vehicle drifted over the centerline into the oncoming lane of travel, within the next few minutes of your life, you may have to decide whether to comply with the officer's request to take several field sobriety tests. Your decision, as well as your performance if you agree to take the tests, may affect the rest of your life.

Potential problems with FSTs, especially if you're clumsy

Do you know that there have been people arrested for intoxicated driving who had not consumed so much as a drop of alcohol before getting behind the wheel? Police frequently use three FSTs to determine whether they have probable cause to arrest you for suspected drunk driving. One of those tests requires you to stand on one leg, often while counting aloud. The following facts explain how results from this test may not only be inaccurate, but may end with you in the back of a police car:

  • If you suffer from a spine alignment defect or some other adverse health condition that affects your gait, stance or balance, this type of test can pose great difficulty for you. Even if you explain your health condition, it does not necessarily mean the officer will set aside suspicion.
  • Skewed results may occur in FST results if you happen to be suffering from certain ailments at the time you take the test. For instance, if you have an ear infection, it may significantly affect your ability to keep your balance during the test.
  • There are also foot problems that can make it very difficult to walk, such as severe blisters or a plantar wart. If you are not able to walk a straight line by placing the heel of one foot at the top of the toes of the other, the officer may take it as evidence that you may be driving under the influence of alcohol.

It is crucial to remember that you are under no legal obligation to comply with a lawful request to take an FST. It's a different story altogether if an officer asks you to submit to a breath or chemical test. However, where FSTs are concerned, you will suffer no administrative or legal penalty for a refusal.

What you do next makes a difference

Once a police offer stops you on suspicion of drunk driving, you already have your work cut out for you to avoid an arrest. If the officer asks you to step out of your car, consider yourself officially detained. Anything (and everything) you do or say from that point on could come back to haunt you if you later face charges.

If you do submit to FSTs during a traffic stop, just remember that results may lead to your arrest. If you know your rights and Tennessee DUI laws ahead of time, you may be able to avoid legal trouble. If an officer takes you into custody on suspicion of DUI, you can immediately request legal representation; in fact, you may find it advantageous to do so as soon as an officer detains you.

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Rob McGuire Law
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Nashville, TN 37203

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