Field Tests (SFSTs)

Phase Two: The Personal Contact Phase

March 25th, 2014

personal contact phaseAn officer’s decision to arrest for DUI involves three steps: observing the vehicle in motion, observing the driver during a personal contact phase, and administering field sobriety tests.  Evidence is collected at each stage.  If, after conducting all three phases, the officer believes probable cause exists that you are impaired, you will then be arrested.  Probable cause is a flexible, common-sense standard. It merely requires that the facts available to the officer would ‘warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief,’ Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 162 (1925), that you are impaired; it does not demand any showing that such a belief be correct or more likely true than false.  A ‘practical, nontechnical’ probability that incriminating evidence is involved is all that is required. Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 176 (1949).”

To collect evidence during the personal contact phase, an officer is trained to:

  1. observe and interview the driver; and
  2. observe the driver’s exit and walk when the driver is asked to step from the vehicle.

When observing and interviewing the driver, NHTSA  offers the following clues for the officer to observe and record at this point in the stop:

  • ” Sight-bloodshot eyes, soiled clothing, fumbling fingers, alcohol containers, drugs or drug paraphernalia, bruises, bumps or scratches, unusual actions
  • ” Hearing-slurred speech, admission of drinking, inconsistent responses, abusive language, unusual statements
  • ” Smell-alcoholic beverages, marijuana, cover up odors like breath sprays, unusual odors

It is up to you to prevent an over-eager officer from determining that your actions are caused by alcohol impairment and not normal day-to-day activities.  One way to do this is to have your documents in order.  No matter how dexterous, some officers will observe your attempt to withdraw your paperwork as inadequate.  We routinely see reports that say:

  • fumbled for license;
  • was slow and deliberate in looking for insurance;
  • unable to produce license and registration;
  • could not get his/her license from wallet;

While these “personal contact phase” observations may not be determinative of impairment, they go a long way in establishing the officer’s decision to place you under arrest for operating a vehicle impaired.  Here is what you can do during the personal contact phase to avoid an unnecessary arrest.

Here is a common sense tip:  just have your license, insurance information and vehicle registration in a place that makes them easily accessible.  Prior to the officer’s approach, have these items close at hand, so that you can provide them upon request.  If you are arrested, you attorney will make use of the fact that you produced these documents quickly.  Practice taking your license out of your wallet.  If it takes more than five seconds, make it easier to get to.  Put you license and insurance information in an envelope near the drivers compartment.  Officers are understandably concerned about their safety and will get suspicious if you dive toward the glove compartment prior to their vehicle approach.

At the conclusion of the personal contact phase, both you and the officer have a decision to make.  The officer must determine if he or she is going to remove you from the vehicle to take standardized field sobriety tests, and you must determine if you will take the tests.  As DUI attorney Bruce Kapsack quips, “If they ask you to get out of the car, they’ve already made their decision, so why give them more evidence to use against you?”  Taking practical steps to be prepared for an officer hell-bent on arresting people for drunk driving, can save you the embarrassment and expense of a DUI arrest.

Attorney Charles M. Rowland II dedicates his practice to defending the accused drunk driver in the Miami Valley and throughout Ohio.  He has the credentials and the experience to win your case and has made himself Dayton’s choice for drunk driving defense. Contact Charles Rowland by phone at (937) 318-1384 or toll-free at 1-888-ROWLAND (888-769-5263). If you need assistance after hours, call the 24/7 DUI Hotline at (937) 776-2671.  You can have DaytonDUI at your fingertips by downloading the DaytonDUI Android App or have DaytonDUI sent directly to your mobile device by texting DaytonDUI (one word) to 50500.  Follow DaytonDUI on Facebook, @DaytonDUI on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Pheed and Pintrest or get RSS of the Ohio DUI blog.  You can email CharlesRowland@DaytonDUI.com or visit his office at 2190 Gateway Dr., Fairborn, Ohio 45324.  “All I do is DUI defense.”

Find more about the personal contact phase at the following links:

FairbornDaytonSpringfieldKetteringVandaliaXeniaMiamisburgSpringboro,Huber HeightsOakwoodBeavercreekCenterville

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests – An Infographic

March 5th, 2014

standardized field sobriety tests

This info graphic describes the science behind the standardized field sobriety tests (spoiler alert: There isn’t much).  Field Sobriety Tests are commonly known as the roadside activities that police officers ask drivers to perform if the officer suspects that the driver is impaired by alcohol or another impairing substance. We call them “stupid human tricks.”  Contrary to popular understanding and belief, many of these tests have little basis in science, and the ones that do are frequently performed incorrectly.

You are also subjected to a great variance in the officer’s understanding of the tests and his or her ability to competently administer the standardized field sobriety tests.  Some officers have not been trained in the administration of the field sobriety tests, some have not been updated since they took the course at the police academy and others simply do not know how to administer standardized field sobriety tests in a manner that would make them indicative of impairment.  In the hands of a well-trained professional, these tests can act as a rudimentary screen for impairment.  In other hands they can give a false veneer of science to a bad arrest.The National Highway Safety and Traffic Administration’s roadside sobriety assessments were developed based on a 1977 study. The subjects of this study had blood alcohol content levels ranging from zero to .15 percent. Though there was such a large different between the test subjects, there was a 47 percent error rate in determining a person’s impairment after administering thestandardized field sobriety tests47%!This means that almost half of the people were misidentified by police officers as being drunk when in fact they were not. What is worse, one of the researchers agreed that the tests are problematic because there is no correlation between a person’s ability to perform a”stupid human trick” like the standardized field sobriety tests battery: One Leg Stand, Walk & Turn, and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test and a person’s ability to operate a vehicle.  Despite the scientific flaws with the tests, they are used throughout Ohio to establish probable cause for an arrest.

Attorney Charles M. Rowland II dedicates his practice to defending the accused drunk driver in the Miami Valley and throughout Ohio.  He has the credentials and the experience to win your case and has made himself Dayton’s choice for drunk driving defense. Contact Charles Rowland by phone at (937) 318-1384 or toll-free at 1-888-ROWLAND (888-769-5263). If you need assistance after hours, call the 24/7 DUI Hotline at (937) 776-2671.  You can have DaytonDUI at your fingertips by downloading the DaytonDUI Android App or have DaytonDUI sent directly to your mobile device by texting DaytonDUI (one word) to 50500.  Follow DaytonDUI on Facebook, @DaytonDUI on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Pheed and Pintrest or get RSS of the Ohio DUI blog.  You can email CharlesRowland@DaytonDUI.com or visit his office at 2190 Gateway Dr., Fairborn, Ohio 45324.  “All I do is DUI defense.”

Find information on standardized field sobriety tests and other city-specific info at the following links:

FairbornDaytonSpringfieldKetteringVandaliaXeniaMiamisburgSpringboro,Huber HeightsOakwoodBeavercreekCenterville

The Ohio “Clear and Convincing Evidence” Standard

February 27th, 2014

clear and convincing evidence

Clear and Convincing Evidence is required for the standardized field sobriety tests to be admitted. Ohio Revised Code 4511.19(D)(4)(b) sets forth the standards for admissibility of the results of field sobriety tests in OVI (drunk driving) prosecutions.  See State v. Bozcar, 113 Ohio St. 3d 148, 2007-Ohio-1251, 863 N.E.2d 115 (2007).  In order for the tests to be admissible, the State must demonstrate:

  1. By clear and convincing evidence.
  2. The Officer administered the tests in substantial compliance.
  3. The testing standards for any reliable, credible, and generally accepted test.
  4. Including, but not limited to, the standards set by NHTSA.

The only guidance provided for determining the meaning of “substantial compliance” has come from State v. Burnside, 100 Ohio St. 3d 152, 2003-Ohio-5372 (2003), wherein the court indicated that errors that are clearly “de minimus” or “minor procedural deviations” are not substantial.  Thus, the State must set forth the testing standards, offer some testimony that the testing standards have been accepted and that the officer has substantially complied.  If the State fails to introduce testimonial or documentary evidence of the standards (most likely via the NHTSA training manual), then they have not met this burden. See Village of Gates Mills v. Mace, 2005-Ohio-2191 (Ohio Ct. App. 8th Dist., Cuyahoga County), wherein the State did not meet this burden despite the Court having its own copy of the manual.

Clear and convincing evidence  is defined  in In re Chappell (1938), 33 N.E.2d 393, 397, as “…that degree of proof which will produce in the mind of the court a firm belief or conviction of the truth of the charges and specifications sought to be established. Cross v. Ledford (1954), 161 Ohio St. 469, paragraph 3 of the syllabus: “Clear and convincing evidence is that measure or degree of proof which is more than a mere ‘preponderance of the evidence,’ but not to the extent of such certainty as is required by ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ in criminal cases, and which will produce in the mind of the trier of facts a firm belief or conviction as to the facts to be established.” Also see Lansdowne v. Beacon Journal Publishing Co. (1987), 32 Ohio St. 3d 176, 180-181; In re Meyer (1994), 98 Ohio App. 3d 189, 195; Cincinnati Bar Assn. v. Massengale (1991), 58 Ohio St. 3d 121, 122; In re Adoption of Holcomb (1985), 18 Ohio St. 3d 361, 368; In re Brown (1994), 98 Ohio App. 3d 337, 342-343.

Ohio DUI attorney Charles M. Rowland II dedicates his practice to defending the accused drunk driver in the Miami Valley and throughout Ohio.  He has the credentials and the experience to win your case and has made himself Dayton’s choice for drunk driving defense. Contact Charles Rowland by phone at (937) 318-1384 or toll-free at 1-888-ROWLAND (888-769-5263). If you need assistance after hours, call the 24/7 DUI Hotline at (937) 776-2671.  You can have DaytonDUI at your fingertips by downloading the DaytonDUI Android App or have DaytonDUI sent directly to your mobile device by texting DaytonDUI (one word) to 50500.  Follow DaytonDUI on Facebook, @DaytonDUI on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Pheed and Pintrest or get RSS of the Ohio DUI blog.  You can email CharlesRowland@DaytonDUI.com or visit his office at 2190 Gateway Dr., Fairborn, Ohio 45324.  “All I do is DUI defense.”

Find information on clear and convincing evidence and other city-specific info at the following links:

FairbornDaytonSpringfieldKetteringVandaliaXeniaMiamisburgSpringboro,Huber HeightsOakwoodBeavercreekCenterville

Changes To Ohio’s Field Sobriety Test Manual – Part One

January 16th, 2014

field sobriety testOhio has adopted a new Field Sobriety Test manual as of 2013.  This post is part of a multi-article look at the Field Sobriety Test manual changes.

1. Let’s Change The Name

The first change to the Field Sobriety Test manual is the name.  Prior to this year the training class for law enforcement officers studying the Field Sobriety Test regimen was called A.D.A.P. (Alcohol and Drug Awareness Program) and used the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “manual.”  The new class will simply be called Field Sobriety Test or SFST class and will use a “guide.”

Remaining from the previous training materials is the familiar “Session” approach allowing instructors to focus the students on different aspects of DUI enforcement. The structure of the “guide” incorporates training slides and the overall look of the information from a book-type format to a Power-Point layout.  The Field Sobriety Test Guide also incorporates new information on “Drugged Driving.”  Students taking the Field Sobriety Test class will now be required to complete a four hour block on Drugged Driving designated for it to be added to the Police Officer Basic Training Curriculum.

If there is one overriding takeaway that you can take away from the changes to the Field Sobriety Test Guide, it is that there is going to be a major focus on driver’s suspected of being impaired by illegal drugs, prescription drugs, alcohol and/or a combination of all of these substances.  Let’s begin by taking a look at the changes to Session One.

2. Changes To Session One

The introductory material contained in Session One updates the previous 2008 data and statistical information with 2010 and 2011 information using the NHTSA Fact Sheets and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Data.

3. Changes To Session Two

The definitions and data related to “alcohol-related crash” was revised to read: “Alcohol-impaired crash so as to be consistent with NHTSA.  It refers to a driver with a .08 percent BAC or higher.  The Guide also reflects that all states now have a .08 percent BAC limit.  It changes the word “many” to “all” when referring to states with a .08 DWI limit.  Additional alcohol facts are added to reflect the most current statistics and the involvement of high BAC drivers.  The Guide revises the information on traffic fatalities, changing the Guide to say that a traffic fatality occurs every 51 minutes.  The Source for this information is listed as the NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts, 2010 Data, Alcohol Impaired Driving, DOT HS 811 606, April 2012.  They also add, In 2010, 28 percent of all fatalities on motorcycles, the operator had a BAC of .08 percent or higher; and, In 2010, 25-34 year olds constituted 34 percent of all alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in the U.S. citing NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts, 2010 Data, Alcohol Impaired Driving, DOT HS 811 606, April 2012.

4. Changes To Session Three

Session Three of the Field Sobriety Test Guide was changed to include major court decisions regarding the admissibility of the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus.  More details were added regarding the adoption of illegal per se laws by the various states. Again, this is a focus on preparing officers to make arrests for alcohol and drugs.

5. Changes To Session Four

No major changes.  Additional slides were added concerning note-taking and report writing.

6. Changes To Session Five

Throughout the Field Sobriety Test training, the acronym “DUI” was changed to “DWI” to be consistent throughout the training guide. Changes were also made to include more information about a vide called “Sliding Sports Car.”  This information is included to allow instructors to solicit information from students regarding the driving and stopping sequence.

7. Changes To Session Six

Again, a name change.  The term “roadblock” was removed and replaced with the word “checkpoint.”  We also see a description and additional information about the training video “Busy Businessman.”

There were no major revisions to Sessions IX, X, XI, XII, or XIV except the removal of any mention of the excised training video “Extras.”  Otherwise, no significant changes were made.  As you may recall from my previous articles, the NHTSA author’s have decided to take out one of the basic factual components of the entire Standardized Field Sobriety Test scheme – the preface.  Yep, that’s right; the preface has been targeted for change.  Recall the following preface to the most recent NHTSA manual.

The procedures outlined in this manual describe how the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) are to be administered under ideal conditions. We recognize that the SFSTs will not always be administered under ideal conditions in the field, because such conditions will not always exist. Even when administered under less than ideal conditions, they will generally serve as valid and useful indicators of impairment. Slight variations from the ideal, i.e., the inability to find a perfectly smooth surface at roadside, may have some affect on the evidentiary weight given to the results. However, this does not necessarily make the SFSTs invalid.

Why target the preface?  It is this author’s opinion that the preface was being used by DUI defense attorneys to place the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests in proper context before the jury in DUI prosecutions.  Just like other areas, the government would rather hide behind words rather than give attorneys defending citizens’ freedom something that has proven to aid jurors in laying bear the problems with these tests. Now more than ever, it is important to have an attorney who understands what they are doing and why they are doing it.  Sadly, many attorneys will never know of the change and more innocent people will be convicted based on pseudo-scientific stupid human tricks.

Please check back as my review of the changes to the NHTSA Guide will continue.

Ohio DUI attorney Charles M. Rowland II dedicates his practice to defending the accused drunk driver in the Miami Valley and throughout Ohio.  He has the credentials and the experience to win your case and has made himself Dayton’s choice for drunk driving defense. Contact Charles Rowland by phone at (937) 318-1384 or toll-free at 1-888-ROWLAND (888-769-5263). If you need assistance after hours, call the 24/7 DUI Hotline at (937) 776-2671.  You can have DaytonDUI at your fingertips by downloading the DaytonDUI Android App or have DaytonDUI sent directly to your mobile device by texting DaytonDUI (one word) to 50500.  Follow DaytonDUI on Facebook, @DaytonDUI on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Pheed and Pintrest or get RSS of the Ohio DUI blog.  You can email CharlesRowland@DaytonDUI.com or visit his office at 2190 Gateway Dr., Fairborn, Ohio 45324.  “All I do is DUI defense.”

 Find information on the standardized field sobriety test Guide and other city-specific info at the following links:

FairbornDaytonSpringfieldKetteringVandaliaXeniaMiamisburgSpringboro,Huber HeightsOakwoodBeavercreekCenterville

There’s A New Standardized Field Sobriety Tests “Guide”

November 18th, 2013

standardized field sobriety testsStandardized Field Sobriety Tests are commonly known as the roadside activities that police officers ask drivers to perform if the officer suspects that the driver is impaired by alcohol or another impairing substance. We call them “stupid human tricks.”  Contrary to popular understanding and belief, many of these tests have little basis in science, and the ones that do are frequently performed incorrectly.

NHTSA has developed a new “GUIDE” in assessing Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.  The new (March, 2013) version focuses more on having law enforcement recognize and administer tests to determine impaired driving by substances other than alcohol.  No new scientific studies regarding the scientific validity of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests are given and no improvements to the process are undertaken. This is the latest in many revisions to the NHTSA Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Manuals (1987, 1992, 1995, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 (R2/06 and R8/06 R2/06/09).

Instead of improving the tests, the author’s have decided to take out one of the basic factual components of the entire Standardized Field Sobriety Test scheme – the preface.  Yep, that’s right; the preface has been targeted for change.  Recall the following preface to the most recent NHTSA manual.

The procedures outlined in this manual describe how the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) are to be administered under ideal conditions. We recognize that the SFSTs will not always be administered under ideal conditions in the field, because such conditions will not always exist. Even when administered under less than ideal conditions, they will generally serve as valid and useful indicators of impairment. Slight variations from the ideal, i.e., the inability to find a perfectly smooth surface at roadside, may have some affect on the evidentiary weight given to the results. However, this does not necessarily make the SFSTs invalid.

Why target the preface?  It is this author’s opinion that the preface was being used by DUI defense attorneys to place the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests in proper context before the jury in DUI prosecutions.  Just like other areas, the government would rather hide behind words rather than give attorneys defending citizens’ freedom something that has proven to aid jurors in laying bear the problems with these tests. Now more than ever, it is important to have an attorney who understands what they are doing and why they are doing it.  Sadly, many attorneys will never know of the change and more innocent people will be convicted based on pseudo-scientific stupid human tricks.

Attorney Charles M. Rowland II dedicates his practice to defending the accused drunk driver in the Miami Valley and throughout Ohio.  He has the credentials and the experience to win your case and has made himself Dayton’s choice for drunk driving defense. Contact Charles Rowland by phone at (937) 318-1384 or toll-free at 1-888-ROWLAND (888-769-5263). If you need assistance after hours, call the 24/7 DUI Hotline at (937) 776-2671.  You can have DaytonDUI at your fingertips by downloading the DaytonDUI Android App or have DaytonDUI sent directly to your mobile device by texting DaytonDUI (one word) to 50500.  Follow DaytonDUI on Facebook, @DaytonDUI on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Pheed and Pintrest or get RSS of the Ohio DUI blog.  You can email CharlesRowland@DaytonDUI.com or visit his office at 2190 Gateway Dr., Fairborn, Ohio 45324.  “All I do is DUI defense.”

 Find information on standardized field sobriety tests and other city-specific info at the following links:

FairbornDaytonSpringfieldKetteringVandaliaXeniaMiamisburgSpringboro,Huber HeightsOakwoodBeavercreekCenterville