Accusations of drunk driving can turn your world upside-down. Mere allegations can threaten your reputation, but a drunk driving conviction can leave you with fines, a suspended or revoked license, and even jail time. You might feel doomed if law enforcement officials and prosecutors say they have ample evidence to obtain a conviction, but their evidence may be questionable in a court of law if you raise the right arguments.
As an example, let’s look at field sobriety tests. The results of these tests often lead to DUI charges, which can have serious ramifications. But are they reliable? Not always. Here’s what these tests generally entail.
- Walk and turn: With this test, a police officer instructs you to take a certain number of steps in heel-to-toe fashion along a straight line with your arms outstretched at your side. Then, you have to pivot and return. An officer will keep his eyes peeled for any imbalance or inability to follow direction, which to him may be indications of intoxication. Yet, far too often police officers provide inadequate instructions and fail to take into account other factors that could contribute to a lack of balance.
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus: Here, a law enforcement official will hold a small object, like a pen, mere inches in front of your nose, request that you focus on it, and then move the object from side-to-side. You are expected to follow the object with your eyes without turning your head. The office looks for any lack of smooth pursuit, jerking movements in the eyes, and an inability to follow instructions as indicators of intoxication. Again, there may be other issues to contribute to these symptoms of intoxication, and many times officers simply inaccurately read test results.
- One leg stand: As its name implies, this test requires you to lift one leg off of the ground about six inches and focus on your raised toes with your arms outstretched. Lack of balance, such as swaying or bouncing, is something the officer will be looking for to try to prove that you are intoxicated, but this, of course, may not be a true indicator of intoxication.
Even if you fail one or more of these field sobriety tests, you might be able to beat DUI charges. These tests are notoriously inaccurate, sometimes having error rates of more than 30%. Poor instructions, inaccurate observations, and even the wrong shoes can all lead to skewed results that, with the right arguments, could be deemed inadmissible in a trial against you. Additionally, field sobriety test results that result from an illegal traffic stop can also be suppressed.
All of this is to say that you shouldn’t automatically think that you will be convicted because there is evidence against you. With the right legal approach, you might be able to mount a criminal defense that protects your best interests and maximizes your chances of securing a favorable outcome.