Field Sobriety Tests

What is the Importance of Field Sobriety Tests When Arrested for OUI?

Field Sobriety Tests (FST) are roadside balancing and coordination tests administered by police officers to determine whether or not to arrest someone for an OUI in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, if law enforcement requires you to perform an FST, they have already determined that you will be arrested and these tests are used to collect more information to establish probable cause.

  • The three types of field sobriety tests include:
  • One Leg Stand Test
  • Walk and Turn Test
  • Horizontal Gaze and Nystagmus

If you are asked to take an FST in Massachusetts, you are under no legal obligation to take them and can refuse them without any negative consequences. An FST refusal cannot be admitted into evidence.

Defenses Against Field Sobriety Tests

There are a variety of ways to contest FST’s result and challenge the officer’s conclusion that you failed these tests. Physical conditions – such as your weight, age, and health concerns – can make performing these tests difficult. Weather conditions can make balancing on one foot or walking a straight line challenging, as well as conditions of the road, such as if it is on a hill or a steep incline. On the other hand, there is a possibility that the arresting officer administered the tests incorrectly.

While given under ideal conditions, The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports have shown that these tests have minimal reliability. According to the NHTSA study, The One Leg Stand test had a 65% reliability rate, the Walk and Turn test was 68% reliable, while the Horizontal Gaze test had a 71% reliability rate.

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