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The Admissibility of Michigan Roadside Sobriety Tests

A simple error in wording in a Michigan Law which went into effect in January of 2015, has led to an unexpected consequence with regard to the admissibility of field sobriety tests in court.

Enrolled House Bill 5385 which was approved on October 14th, 2014 and went into effect on January 12th, 2015 was enacted in an attempt to strengthen drugged driving laws in Michigan. However, what has been called a "poorly written law", has now led at least one judge to rule a field sobriety test inadmissible during a recent DUI case.

A field sobriety test is any test given by an officer to help he or she determine whether a driver is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. There are a number of tests which an officer may ask someone who they believe to be under the influence to perform. The most common tests include:


  • HGN Testing -horizontal gaze nystagmus is a jerking of the eye which occurs naturally as the eye gazes from side to the side and is involuntary. In cases of impairment, they eye may react differently.

  • Walk and Turn - another common test, the walk and turn test is one which requires a person to both think and act at the same time. The person is asked to take a certain number of steps, turn and walk the same number of steps back. People who are under the influence will have a more difficult time performing these types of tests.

  • Reciting and Counting - you may be asked to recite part of the alphabet or count out loud to determine if you are under the influence

  • Breath Test - officers in the field will often ask a person they believe to be under the influence to submit to a preliminary breath test. This test will give a measure of the level of alcohol in the driver's system at the time of the stop.


Traditionally, results of the field sobriety tests have been admissible in court during DUI cases however, incidental wording has led to at least one instance of these results being held inadmissible in a court of law. Lawmakers are scrambling to "fix" the wording and have recently introduced Senate Bill 207 of 2015 to do just that. Presented to the Senate on March 12th, 2015, this bill should effectively get rid of the questionable language that has led to this issue, and once again allow field sobriety tests to be admissible in all cases relating to driving under the influence in Michigan.

Collis & Griffor, PC is an affordable and experience Ypsilanti attorney serving primary the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti areas.

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