Standardized 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: