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Three myths about field sobriety tests

Field sobriety tests have been a staple of DUI traffic stops for decades. If a law enforcement officer pulls over a person suspected of drinking and driving, it is likely he or she will be subjected to at least one of these tests. According to AAA, the three most common include the walk-and-turn, the one-leg stand and the horizontal gaze nystagmus. All of these are intended to test a person's physical coordination to gauge inebriation.

There are many misconceptions and myths surrounding field sobriety tests, though. Many people are pulled over and act according to false information given by the officer or misinformation that they have heard previously. You should be aware of the following myths so that you do not fall prey to misinformation.

You must take one

Perhaps the most common misconception about field sobriety tests is that you must take one. An officer may pull you over and request that you submit to a FST, and she or he may tell you that it is mandatory, but you are not legally required to perform any kind of test. You can decline and inform the officer that you do not submit to the FST.

Failing is a conviction

For those who do submit to a FST and do not pass, it is likely that they will be arrested. You may think that failing a FST is the equivalent of a DUI conviction, but, in fact, it may not even be admissible as evidence. Failing a field sobriety test does not mean that you have been convicted. You will likely be charged with DUI as a result, but you are still entitled to a fair trial.

They are objective

Lastly, many people are under the impression that a FST is an objective or scientific procedure, which could not be further from the truth. A range of factors go into a person's performance in a FST—with inebriation only being one potential part. Your weight, age, physical fitness and the physical environment of the FST are all likely to influence how you perform.

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Fairfax, VA 22030-7528

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