DUI Attorney David N. Jolly is a certified instructor for Standardized Field Sobriety Tests
Once the driver has been detained and there is suspicion of DUI, the DUI officer must then utilize tools at his/her disposal to further detect indicators of impairment. DUI Field sobriety tests have been used throughout the past century by DUI police officers to help them assess whether an individual is too impaired to drive an automobile. These DUI tests were initially not very sophisticated and included the smell of alcohol on the breath, the ability of a person to walk a chalk line, and various behavioral signs and symptoms of inebriation. Prior to NHTSA standardizing DUI field sobriety tests in the 1980s, such tests in the United States had little consistency, no standardization, and as a result questionable reliability: “[b]ecause of the inconsistencies in the experimental procedures and approaches used by investigators, few generalizations regarding the influence of alcohol on performance can be advanced.” The Effect of Alcohol on Human Performance: A Classification and Integration of Research Findings. American Institutes for Research. Page iv. (May 1973)
NHTSA first published DUI SFSTs manuals to be used by law enforcement agencies in field sobriety testing in 1981, with revisions to the originals in 1992 (PB 94-780228 Student Manual, PB 94-780210 Instructor Manual), 1995 (AVA-19911BB00 Student Manual, AVA-19910BB00 Instructor Manual) 2000 (AVA-20839BB00 Student Manual, AVA-20838BB00 Instructor Manual), 2002 (AVA-21135BB00 Student Manual, AVA-21134BB00 Instructor Manual), 2004 (Participant and Instructor Manuals, HS 178 R9/04), and most recently in 2006 (Student and Instructor Manuals, HS 178 R2/06). The result was a battery of three standardized DUI field sobriety tests, namely, the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), the walk and turn test, and the one-leg stand. These three tests are commonly used in all DUI cases by DUI police officers.
What you should know
The first thing to know about DUI field sobriety tests (FSTs) is that they are voluntary tests, and are therefore not mandatory. If you are ever asked by a DUI police officer to perform the DUI FSTs, politely refuse. If you refuse to take the DUI test it does, however, become more likely that you will be arrested for DUI. But keep in mind that if the DUI officer is requesting that you perform these DUI tests his mind may already be made up.
In addition to the three “standardized” DUI FSTs that are recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA”), there are numerous other tests that some officers use as “sobriety tests.” However these tests are not recognized as standardized DUI FSTs by NHTSA and if performed should have little or no weight in your DUI case despite what DUI law enforcement likes to think. To be valid, the NHTSA approved tests must be administered and graded precisely according to NHTSA rules for each and every DUI suspect.
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