Will Physical Ailments Cause Problems During the Field Sobriety Tests?
Interviewer: Are there any physical ailments or problems that even though someone ends up doing the test will help you defend them besides your normal, no normal person can do these type of tests?
Nate: Yes, prior to putting anyone through these tests a police officer is trained to ask if you have any medical disabilities, whether that would be with your eyesight or with your normal brain function as well as any physical ailments that would restrict you or prohibit you from doing these tests.
A few of these things would be, when they’re looking at your eyes, have you had any serious head trauma, have you had a concussion, anything that would affect your balance. Your balance is directly related to your eyesight. A big one for the physical tests, which would be the walking test and the balancing test, a lot of knee issues or anything that would have to do with gout or walking impairment.
The Officers Discretion Determines Their Impact
I use myself as an example there. I’ve played college basketball, and I’ve had two and a half complete knee reconstructions. I cannot do these tests, even if I wanted to, because my knees are not structurally sound enough. The interesting thing about that is after you tell an officer that yes I have these problems, they 9 times out of 10 will say, “I will take that into consideration, but I’m still going to put you through these tests.”
Whenever I’ve had an officer testify that they take it into consideration they’re never able to say how they actually do that or what impact that consideration has on whether or not they deemed you impaired after the test was over.
Interviewer: I know we covered this in an earlier question. If a person does have a physical disability and they’re pulled over and they’re asked to perform the field sobriety test, should they consent to it even though they may tell the officer that they do have these problems?
Nate: The officer’s going to ask if they have any medical or physical issues. An officer, once hearing that you have a physical disability or reason why you can’t go through these tests, should provide you with alternative tests. Counting up or down, doing the A, B, Cs without singing them, that kind of thing.
There Are Alternative Options
There are alternative tests that they can put you through. If you try to go through with a disability the likelihood is that you’re screwed.
Interviewer: If I’ve sustained an injury in the past and I’m asked to take the field sobriety test is there a way that I can answer the question and make it known to the officer without sounding like I know I’m going to fail?
Nate: I would tell the officer that I have a very difficult time walking or balancing for the following reasons. The high likelihood of officers are going to put you through the tests regardless. Then it’s going to be up to hiring an attorney to fight that.