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Physical and mental conditions that can influence a field sobriety test

As the holidays approach, many are off to celebrate with family and friends with good food, parties and lots of drinking. While the holidays are a great time to enjoy all the things that make you happy, they can also be a time when many get behind the wheel of a car when they have no business driving. In 2015, there were 31,783 arrests for driving under the influence in Florida, showing that this is a common problem that needs to be addressed. 

When an individual is pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence, they may be given a field sobriety test by a law enforcement officer. What many don't realize is that there are other factors that can affect sobriety levels that may change the results of a test when studied more closely. Because officers don't have a baseline by which to judge the individual person, field sobriety tests can be problematic when proving guilt.

Physical disabilities

Those with certain physical impairments should not be asked to take a field sobriety test. Some examples are individuals with:

  • Foot, leg or back injuries
  • Inner ear conditions
  • Physical disabilities

Anyone who is more than 50 pounds overweight should not be given a field sobriety test, or those that are over 65 years of age. All of these issues can affect the accuracy of the test and may make it difficult for an individual to pass even when they are not driving under the influence.

Mental conditions

Some with neurological conditions may have a difficult time passing the part of the test that requires eye movement from side to side. Anxiety can also cause an individual to fail certain parts of the test, as simply being pulled over by an officer may make them nervous and anxious enough to have a difficult time with basic tasks.

Before giving the test, the officer is required to confirm that the driver understands the tasks that are being performed and what they mean. A person with significant mental disabilities may not have the capacity to understand what the officer is saying or what is being asked of them.

Be aware of expectations

When it comes to field sobriety tests, it's often difficult to know what is expected of you or to perform the tasks in a way that is satisfactory to the officer, even when you aren't under the influence. If you feel you have been accused or failed a test unfairly, an attorney may be able to answer questions about the best way to handle your case going forward.

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