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Should you worry about field sobriety test results?

When an officer pulls you over for a routine traffic stop, what happens if they suspect you of driving intoxicated? They will likely test you to determine if there are any signs of alcohol. But how do they do this?

First, you will likely face a field sobriety test. What are these tests? Why and how do officers use them? Most importantly, what happens if you fail one?

A first line of testing

VeryWell Mind takes a look at the place of field sobriety tests in an officer’s arsenal. This is often the “first line” of testing, so to say. Officers will rely on it as a way to test the waters and see if they need to continue on with additional checks. If you fail a field sobriety test, they may follow it up with a breath or blood analysis test. These are more invasive, especially the latter which involves drawing your blood.

Field sobriety test results as evidence

However, field sobriety test results themselves do not tend to see much use in court. This is due to the potential of officer bias influencing test results. After all, field sobriety tests are not scientifically accurate or precise. Even non-standardized field sobriety tests – designed specifically to eliminate officer bias – allows for some.

In other words, if you fail this test, your biggest concern is that it might lead to further testing or even your arrest. But in court, it will likely only see use as a supporting piece of evidence, if that. An officer might just use it to prove they had probable cause to make an arrest. So do not fret too much, but do not completely write it off either.


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