In Arizona, you are not required to take the field sobriety tests (FSTs) when the police pull you over on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI). But, most people don’t know this; and, even among those that do, most aren’t comfortable telling the police, “No.” This is especially true when standing on the side of the road with a potential DUI charge hanging in the balance.

So, if you are like most people, you took the field sobriety tests during your DUI stop even though you didn’t have to. Since you are reading this, your arresting officer must have determined that you “failed” the FSTs. At this point, what—if anything—can you do to protect yourself from a conviction?

10 Ways to Challenge Your FST Results in Arizona

While prosecutors can use your field sobriety test results against you, and while your FST results can be damaging evidence of guilt, there are many ways to dispute the relevance and reliability of your FST results as well. For example, here are 10 ways a Phoenix DUI lawyer may be able to fight your DUI charge even if you “failed” the FSTs:

1. The Police Stopped You Without Reasonable Suspicion

To conduct a lawful traffic stop, the police must have “reasonable suspicion” that the driver has committed a crime. If you were swerving across the road, if you weren’t maintaining a consistent speed, or if you were exhibiting any of the other hallmarks of drunk driving, then the police likely had reasonable suspicion to stop you. But, if the police engaged in racial or ethnic profiling, or if they pulled you over for any other unlawful reason, then your FST results—and all other evidence obtained during your DUI stop—may be inadmissible in court.

2. Your Arresting Officer Failed to Adequately Explain the FSTs

Before asking you to take the field sobriety tests, the police must clearly explain the tests and what you need to do to pass. If your arresting officer failed to provide adequate instructions, this could explain why you performed poorly on one or more of the tests.

3. Your Arresting Officer Failed to Properly Administer the FSTs

In addition to providing adequate instructions, the police must also properly administer the FSTs. There are standardized protocols for administering each of the three tests (the one-leg stand test, the walk-and-turn test, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test). If your arresting officer failed to follow these protocols in any respect, this could invalidate your test results.

4. Your Arresting Officer Wasn’t Paying Attention

To accurately assess your performance, the police must carefully observe your performance for the duration of all three tests. If your arresting officer asked you to perform the tests but didn’t pay attention while you were performing them, his or her assessment of your performance may be unreliable.

5. You Were Having Trouble Seeing

From the blazing Arizona sun to the glare from passing vehicles’ headlights at night, a variety of factors can make it difficult to see on the side of the road. If you were having trouble seeing, this could have negatively impacted your ability to perform all three of the standardized FSTs.

6. You Have a Medical Condition that Affects Your Eyesight or Balance

Various medical conditions can negatively affect your ability to perform well on the standardized field sobriety tests. These include conditions that affect your eyesight and conditions that affect your balance. Showing that you have one of these conditions could serve as a defense in your Arizona DUI case.

7. Your Shoes or Clothing Got in the Way

Stiff boots, high heels, tight jeans, baggy pants, and various other types of clothing items can make it difficult to perform well on the field sobriety tests. If your shoes or clothes made it hard for you to maintain your balance or walk in a straight line without tripping or stumbling, this could serve as a defense in your Arizona DUI case as well.

8. You Were Anxious, Nervous, or Scared

Lots of people get anxious, nervous, or scared when dealing with the police during a DUI stop. Feeling anxious, nervous, or scared can make it extremely difficult to perform well on the FSTs—despite your best efforts to do so and despite being sober.

9. The Road or Weather Conditions Affected Your Performance

Loose gravel, an uneven shoulder, rain, cold, and other road and weather conditions can compromise the validity of FST results. If any of these are relevant in your case, your defense lawyer may be able to use them to your advantage.

10. Your Arresting Officer Improperly Interpreted Your Performance

Finally, for your FST results to be valid, they must be based on an accurate assessment of your performance. If your arresting officer improperly interpreted your performance on any of the tests—whether due to unfamiliarity with the testing standards or other factors—then your results should not be considered evidence that you were drunk behind the wheel.

Remember, you don’t need to prove an alternate explanation for failing the field sobriety tests. Instead, all you have to do is raise a reasonable doubt as to whether your FST results are reliable. If there is even the potential that some factor other than alcohol intoxication could explain your “failure,” this could be enough to convince the jury that your results shouldn’t be used against you. 

Don’t Forget: Your FST Results Probably Aren’t the Prosecution’s Only Evidence Against You

While it is important to dispute your FST results to the fullest extent possible, it is also important not to focus on disputing your FST results exclusively. More than likely, you will need to assert other defenses as well—including defenses focused on challenging your breathalyzer test results. To make sure you are fighting your DUI by all means available, you should consult with a Phoenix DUI defense lawyer promptly.

Get a Free Consultation with a Phoenix DUI Defense Lawyer 24/7

If you are facing a drunk driving charge in Arizona, we can help. For a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Phoenix DUI defense lawyer, call 480-405-7922 or send us your information online now.