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Common Misconceptions About Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

Interviewer: Let me ask you here, what are some of the common misconceptions about the standardized field sobriety tests?

Adam Hunt: There are a lot of old stories about sucking on pennies, beating Breathalyzers, that they have a right to refuse, or that they have the right to choose what type of sobriety test they take. I can’t think of any others, but there are quite a few. The refusal seems to be the most common misconception that I see.

Interviewer: I heard of the sucking on the penny one. I think I heard that when I was like in high school. I wonder if people still believe that.

Adam Hunt: I’m sure somebody out there does.

Field Sobriety Tests as Evidence

Interviewer: Wow. Let’s go step-by-step on how this is going to be used against someone. If you’re in a trial and it comes down to that, how is the field sobriety aspect going to be used against someone?

Adam Hunt: Basically, they have to have some type of scientific proof that shows the person was impaired in some way or form, even if there wasn’t a Breathalyzer test administered like if there was a refusal, say. If there were different indicators and they were doing poorly on several different sections of the different tests, it could be sufficient for a judge or a jury to interpret that the person that was operating the vehicle was indeed impaired or under the influence.

Interviewer: Okay. Let me get this straight though. During the initial process, the police officer before they even make that arrest is going to perform this field sobriety exam, right? Is it depending on what the results are or is it standard for them to give the Breathalyzer immediately after?

Adam Hunt: Typically they’ll give a portable field Breathalyzer test. Then, since it’s not as accurate, they usually take them to Ohio’s Highway Patrol and they perform it on a bigger, more accurate machine.

Typical Performance on Field Sobriety Tests

Interviewer: Oh, I see. Now how do you gauge individuals, in your experience? Do they usually do okay or does everyone do horribly?

Adam Hunt: It depends on the individuals themselves and whether they were impaired. Any outcome on that depends also on which police department is giving or conducting the field sobriety tests. I would say the Ohio State Highway Patrol is probably the most accurate and the most thorough. Then you go down to your municipality or city, and that’s just going to vary depending on each department.

By: Adam Hunt

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