Under Georgia law, a police officer can conduct a field sobriety test if they have probable cause or valid reasonable suspicion that a driver is operating their vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. The court can then use the results of this test as a reason to convict that driver. But you should know that field sobriety tests are not always accurate or reliable, and there are strict criteria that police officers must use to conduct them. So to avoid a wrongful conviction, you may need to understand how this test works and the laws that apply to find grounds to challenge it in court.
Understanding field sobriety tests
The moment you earn your Georgia driver’s license, you automatically consent to taking a sobriety test whenever an authorized law enforcement officer asks. Officers use standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) to assess if a driver is under the influence of drugs. These tests include horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk and turn test, one leg stand test and finger to nose tests.
Challenging field sobriety test results
If you failed the SFSTs and were then charged with DUI or drug possession, you may be able to challenge the results to have the judge dismiss the conviction. One way to do this is to revisit the steps that the police officer took when administering the test. If they conducted the test on uneven ground with no street light or in an area with traffic and noise, that could create an environment that is not conducive to producing accurate results.
More importantly, the law only allows officers trained in SFSTs to conduct the test. Therefore, if you believe that a random police officer assessed you, you can challenge their ability to provide reliable results.
There are also medical conditions like ear infections and vertigo that could lead to inaccurate results. Even something like a shoe with too much or no grip on the sole can influence the accuracy of the test.
It is important to note that SFSTs are not scientific tests but rather an observation based on how you physically perform them. Given how damaging a DUI conviction can be, taking the necessary steps to avoid having a record is a way to protect your future and that of your loved ones.