Did You Fail a Field Sobriety Test?

Field sobriety tests are used to determine probable cause for a DWI arrest during a roadside stop, but they often show inaccurate results that get innocent drivers arrested.

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Field Sobriety Tests are Risky

When a police officer pulls a driver over for suspicion of drunk driving, the driver will likely be subjected to one or more field sobriety tests to gauge the level of impairment. These tests use a variety of measures to help police officers determine a driver’s physical and cognitive abilities. A driver may be asked to perform certain tasks such as:

  • Walking a straight line
  • Standing on one leg
  • Touching the nose with the index finger
  • Counting the number of fingers raised by the officer
  • Taking a horizontal gaze nystagmus test
  • Taking a preliminary breath test (PBT)

Although these tests are usually difficult for most drunk drivers, many sober drivers can’t perform the required tasks. Sobriety field tests do not accurately gauge a person’s level of impairment well enough to warrant probable cause for arrest.

Under Minnesota law, drivers are not legally obligated to take field sobriety tests. Most drivers comply because they don’t know the law or they’re trying to avoid a DWI arrest and conviction. Many people think they’re required to take a preliminary breath test (PBT) when they are pulled over. However, a PBT is performed on the scene using a hand-held device and is not required by law. In some cases, drivers who have been drinking take the PBT test out of fear of getting arrested, even if their alcohol levels are below the legal limit of .08. Drivers are only required to submit to chemical tests that measure BAC through a breathalyzer, blood, or urine test. These are normally performed at a hospital, police station, or jail.

Field sobriety tests, standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, have been used by police officers for several decades. Studies show that the horizontal gaze nystagmus test used to track involuntary eye movement can register a false level of alcohol because of 40 different medical conditions, other than intoxication. Since field sobriety tests often have inaccurate results that may show probable cause for a DWI arrest, drivers should know they have a legal right to refuse the tests. A Minneapolis drunk driving lawyer often advises drivers to politely refuse field sobriety tests.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Knowing how to choose a criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis, MN, can help you hire a lawyer who will prepare an effective defense strategy and fight for the best result from your case. One of the crucial tips when selecting a criminal defense lawyer is to vet those with relevant experience in cases like yours. You can only do this when you thoroughly understand the charges you are facing.
People anticipating an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, might ask, “What is the role of a defense attorney during an arrest?” A skilled criminal defense attorney can explain your options, ensure the police follow the rules, and protect your rights. The attorney will build a solid defense, talk to the prosecutor, and fight for your best interests.
Knowing when to hire a criminal lawyer for your case in Minnesota can help protect your constitutional rights and turn the odds in your favor. You should retain a criminal lawyer immediately after learning you are under investigation, get arrested, or are charged with a crime. Seasoned criminal lawyers understand the criminal justice system, can build a winning defense strategy, and aggressively push for a positive outcome of your case.