Field Sobriety Tests and DUI Arrests

Harrisburg DUI Defense Attorneys

Most people that have been arrested on a charge of drunk driving don’t stop to think about their field sobriety test and whether it should be challenged. Too often people arrested for DUI assume that a failed field sobriety test constitutes additional proof against them that they were driving drunk. What most people arrested for DUI don’t realize is a field sobriety test must be given according to a certain protocol. Some police departments require officers to be trained in how to properly conduct a field sobriety test; others, however, do not. Since field sobriety tests are used to establish probable cause to administer a breath test or make a DUI arrest, if conducted improperly the court may be compelled to dismiss the DUI charge against you.

Conducting a Field Sobriety Test – Issues to Consider

Most police departments use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Student Manual when training officers in how to conduct field sobriety tests. The manual is technical and thorough in places, specifying the conditions under which a field sobriety test must be given as well as what an officer is supposed to do if a suspect stops momentarily, shifts his or her weight, or raises his or her arms above a certain height. Field sobriety tests are supposed to be given on even, dry pavement. As such, whether or not your test was given on a slight incline, if it was raining or snowing at the time, or if there was broken pavement in the area may determine whether or not your field sobriety test can be used against you.

How Reliable are Field Sobriety Tests?

A common criticism of the field sobriety test is that it’s simply not reliable enough. First, the officer who administers it acts as your judge and jury: he’s the one that conducts the test AND the one who judges whether or not you passed it. As such, you’re at the mercy of the knowledge and skill of the officer who conducts the test.

Secondly, in a study conducted by S. Cole & R.H. Nowaczyk, officers were asked to watch a film of 21 people with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.00 perform the field sobriety test. Of the officers selected to participate in the study, 46% thought the people on film had had too much to drink. This raises serious questions about the reliability of the field sobriety test and the ability of officers to make a good determination of whether or not someone has failed it.

Arrested on a DUI Charge? Contact Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLC

If you’ve been arrested for DUI, contact Harrisburg DUI defense attorneys at Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLC today. We can evaluate your DUI case and determine if there is good reason to believe your field sobriety test was administered improperly.

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