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Can health factors cause you to fail a field sobriety test?

Aug 21, 2023 | DUI

Field sobriety tests are tools that law enforcement officers in California use to determine if a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If an officer pulls you over and suspects impairment, you might have to perform one or more field sobriety tests.

But what if a health condition affects your ability to complete these tasks? Can such health factors cause you to fail a California field sobriety test even if you have not consumed any impairing substances?

Understanding field sobriety tests

Field sobriety tests often include a series of physical and mental exercises like the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, the Walk-and-Turn test and the One-Leg Stand test. Officers use these exercises to measure your balance, coordination and ability to follow instructions, which alcohol or drugs could impair.

Health factors that can affect the tests

Several health factors can influence your ability to pass a field sobriety test. If you have a physical disability affecting your balance or coordination, such as a leg injury or a neurological condition, you might find it difficult to complete the Walk-and-Turn or One-Leg Stand tests. Eye conditions can also affect the HGN test, which requires you to follow an object with your eyes. Even certain medications can cause drowsiness or other effects that might appear similar to the effects of alcohol or drugs.

Communicating your health conditions

If an officer requests you to perform a field sobriety test and you have a health condition that could affect the results, communicating this information to the officer is crucial. Explaining your condition and its potential influence on the test can lead to a more just and accurate assessment.

Field sobriety tests serve as standard tools for assessing impairment, but it is vital to understand that your health can cause you to fail these tests even if you are not under the influence. Knowing how these tests work and how your health might influence them can help you ensure fair and accurate treatment during a traffic stop.