Is It Possible to “Pass” Field Sobriety Tests?
A central feature of any roadside OWI investigation is field sobriety tests like the “walk and turn” and the “one leg stand” test. These tests are often referred to as “divided attention” tests because they require the test subject to concentrate on and complete multiple tasks at the same time. The theory behind these tests is simple: if a person cannot divide attention between the various tasks required by each test, then it is unlikely a person is able to divide his or her attention between the various tasks required to safely drive a vehicle.
What happens if you “pass” the field sobriety tests offered by an officer? Will the officer stop his or her OWI investigation? Chances are, no. Here’s why:
You Cannot “Pass” a Field Sobriety Test
Many people mistakenly assume that a field sobriety test is scored in the same way as a test given at college or for a job — that there is a minimum score required to “pass” the test. They assume, for example, that if a driver only demonstrates one “clue” out of eight possible clues on a walk and turn test that he or she has “passed” that field sobriety test and this test cannot be used to suggest that he or she is under the influence. These assumptions are false.
How Does a Law Enforcement Officer Score a Field Sobriety Test?
Scoring a field sobriety test involves an officer looking for certain “clues” or actions the test subject does during the performance of the test. Even a single “clue” can suggest that you are unable to safely drive a vehicle. Although the clues that officers are trained to look for are objective – for example, every officer conducting a walk and turn test is looking for the same clue – whether a clue exists in a given driver’s field test is subjective.
An example of one “clue” on the walk and turn test is when a person raises his or her arms more than six inches in order to balance him- or herself. But few officers are able to precisely measure six inches. Thus, many officers will note that a test subject has displayed that clue even if the subject did not actually raise his or her arms six inches.
What Does a Michigan OWI Defense Attorney Do?
A knowledgeable OWI defense attorney will review the video and/or notes from the field sobriety tests to look for instances in which the officer did not score your performance accurately. False clues – instances in which the officer noted a clue but where your actions do not actually meet the definition of the clue – can not only suggest you were not under the influence, but can be important in suppressing evidence the officer obtained later, such as the results of a breath or blood test.
The Michigan OWI defense attorneys at the Van Den Heuvel Law Firm are experienced in helping Michigan drivers challenge OWI charges. Contact us for assistance by calling (616) 698-0000 today.