Roadside DWI Tests: What Do They Prove?
Nationally recognized DWI lawyer and one of the very best in Pennslyvania, Justin McShane, has posted to his blog a new article about Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST).
Mr. McShane points out that these roadside tests provide little information to a jury. Most officers do not conduct the tests properly. If the strict critera are not met as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires, the results are useless. The manual published by NHTSA says the tests are valid ONLY WHEN:
1. The tests are administered "in the prescribed, standardized manner";
2. The proper "clues" are used to assess the driver's performance; and,
3. The standardized criteria are employed to interpret that performance.
As Mr. McShane reminds us, the manual states, "IF ANY ONE OF THE STANDARDIZED FIELD SOBRIETY TEST ELEMENTS IS CHANGED, THE VALIDITY IS COMPROMISED"!
Most importantly, the blog notes that the testing is based on faulty assumptions.
This is worth exploring. Consider the following:
Q: How many drivers are required to pass such physical tests before the state gives them a license, other than eye testing?
A. Physical Testing is not a general requirement in Minnesota.
Q: If the officer does not know how well a driver will perform without having anything to drink, what baseline does the officer compare the driver's performance?
A: The officer bases a driver's performance on how well the average person would do under ideal conditions.
Officers are trained not to use such testing for everyone. The manual acknowledges the SFSTs are not valid for people more than 50 pounds overweight, for example. But this is frequently ignored by both police and judges. (An example of this can be found in a recent newspaper article, "Judge Rejects Obesity Defense in DWI Trial.."
I strongly encourage anyone who plans on consuming alcohol to prearrange for a sober ride home. For those who don't, start practicing...
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