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Field sobriety tests easy to fail even for sober people

Law enforcement in many states, including Pennsylvania, utilize the field sobriety test as a way to determine if someone may be intoxicated without using a breath or chemical test. This can be a quick way to get a drunk driver off the road during a routine traffic stop. However, passing a field sobriety test isn’t as easy as people may think. Even those who haven’t been drinking may have trouble performing the actions that are conducted during a standardized field sobriety test. 

These actions include balancing on one leg while reciting the alphabet and walking in a straight line, then turning and walking back. During both of these tests, subjects should not lose their balance or use their arms to steady themselves. Officers may also listen for slurred speech and use the horizontal gaze nystagmus test – checking whether the eyeball jerks or bounces, a common sign of intoxication. 

According to NBC 29 News, several sober people who performed field sobriety tests had difficulty balancing or walking in a straight line, merely to being naturally uncoordinated or nervous. This suggests that those with balance problems, medical conditions, injuries or other impairments may end up with a false positive and be arrested for DUI, despite not having had anything to drink. Additionally, people with speech impediments might also be mistaken as intoxicated. 

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board states that those in Pennsylvania who are arrested for a first-time DUI face numerous penalties, including fines, probation, license suspension and even jail time. Those whose arrests were based on faulty field sobriety tests may also end up with a drunk driving record.

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Gregory R. Gifford
  • RGS&G Firm News

    "Gregory R. Gifford, a partner at the Lansdale law firm of Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg and Gifford, P.C., was elected Vice President of the Montgomery Bar Association on January 13, 2017. Mr. Gifford is a past Director of the Association and has also served as its Treasurer and Secretary"Read more...

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Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg and Gifford has been a member of the local Penn Suburban Chamber of Commerce (previously known as North Penn Suburban Chamber of Commerce) for more than 25 years.

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