Tuesday, May 8, 2012

All You Need to Know About Field Sobriety Tests

You should not perform Field Sobriety Tests for a police officer.

Just to speak briefly about the whole theory and concept of field sobriety testing, let’s start with the following premise: If police perform a standardized test on someone to measure their balance and coordination (more on HGN later), and police determine that the person has less balance and coordination than is acceptable, police can determine that said person is under the influence of alcohol.

One of the central problems with the above premise is that the test is standardized, while people are not.  People come in all shapes and sizes, and different levels of strength and ability, but the tests do not adjust to the individual.  The test is the same every time.  Some people have a much greater degree of balance and coordination than others.  Anyone who regularly practices yoga will generally perform better on FSTs, and people who are out of shape will generally perform worse.

Also, some people are more knowledgeable than others.  If you possess the knowledge that slightly bending your knees will help you balance, you will perform better than someone who does not possess that knowledge, and performs FSTs with their knees locked out.  Try it.  Go home and try to walk a straight line heel to toe with your knees straight and arms down at your sides.  Then try to walk the same line with your knees slightly bent.  It’s a world of difference.

Another central problem with field sobriety testing is that the tests are subjective; they are not graded by strictly objective criteria.  Math tests are objective.  No matter who grades my test, if I think 2+2=6, I get the answer wrong.  There is a correct answer, and an incorrect answer, and it is pass/fail NO MATTER WHO GRADES THE TEST.  An art contest at the state fair is subjective.  My painting of a kitty may be better or worse than your painting of a kitty, depending on who judges the art contest.  Somewhere between math and the kitty painting lies the FSTs.  The officer gets to determine how much swaying constitutes “swaying” when you stand on one leg.

Did you know that officers are sometimes given incentives to make DUI arrests?  Obviously there is the incentive to perform at their job so that they can succeed, and what better way to perform than make a lot of arrests.  But I’m talking about incentives specifically for DUI arrests.  A retired Kentucky State Trooper recently told me that insurance companies would pay for vacations that were given away to police officers who made the most DUI arrests.  If you’re skeptical, check it out for yourself.  Here’s just one example:

“Free, cool new equipment for cracking down extra hard on DUIs???  Sweet!” – random law enforcement official.

My point, in examining the foregoing, is that sometimes police officers might have an incentive to be slightly less than objective.  So, even if you passed that walk and turn test, you might have failed.  Because Officer Bob needs his agency to receive the "DUI ENFORCEMENT INCENTIVE PACKAGE!!!"  After all, LED flashlights are expensive, yo!

Lastly, there is no negative ramification for refusing to submit to Field Sobriety Tests.  You can’t be punished for refusing to take the FSTs.  You will not automatically lose your license for refusing to submit to Field Sobriety Tests.  You will not receive extra jail time.  So do not take them.  Police officers are not your friends.  They are not trying to help you.  Don’t help them build a case against you.

This blog post is in no way an endorsement for driving under the influence.  Seriously.  Take a cab and avoid the hassle and danger.

If you have been charged with a DUI in Louisville, Lexington, Elizabethtown, Frankfort, or the surrounding areas, you should hire a Louisville DUI lawyer who knows the law.  Call 502.618.4949 for a free consultation today.  Your case is serious.  You deserve a lawyer who gives a damn.

Simms & Reed, PLLC.  Results.  As fast as the law will allow.

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