The NHTSA Updates The Book On Standardized Field Sobriety Tests Every Few Years
Interviewer: How long have been police officers administering these sort of tests, is it something relatively new or they’ve been going on for a while?
Zach Peagler: They have been going on for a while. Every few years, NHTSA will update their book on standardized field sobriety tests. It’s an encyclopedia sized book but an interesting thing that the average person probably doesn’t know is that every law enforcement agency in the entire country trains their officers on NHTSA standardized field sobriety testing and so those are the adopted tests for all law enforcement agencies to use to gather probable cause for making a DUI arrest. Now a lot of various jurisdictions and police forces will use different field sobriety testing as well.
Some Sobriety Tests Are Not Scientifically Reliable to Show Indicators of Impairment
There are some other kinds of field sobriety testing utilized, but our argument to those is they have not been thoroughly vetted so they are not scientifically verifiable to show indicators of impairment and each of the standardized field sobriety tests, the three that I have mentioned, they have specific protocols for how they should be done and they point to objective data that indicates impairment.
There are Specific Indicators Within Each Test That the Officers are Trained to Look For
That is another misconception in the public: that these standardized field sobriety tests are a subjective analysis by the police officer, which in many cases it is, but that’s not the way it is supposed to be. It’ not supposed to be testing that can be done and the officer says, ‘Well that person looks like they’ve had too many.’ That’s not the way it works. There are specific indicators within each test that those officers are trained to be looking for and taking notes and marking down which specific indicators the person failed or did not fail.
Interviewer: Let’s just do a reminder here, what is NHTSA again?
Zach Peagler: The National Highway Traffic Safety Association.
The Only Indicators that a Judge or a Jury Should Take into Account are those That are Approved by the NHTSA
Interviewer: Even though states have different laws when it comes to DUI, they all have to follow NHTSAsguidelines when it comes to standardized field sobriety?
Zach Peagler: They should always do that but in a court proceeding we would argue that the only indicators that a judge or jury should be able to take into account for probable cause to indicate impairment would be the ones that have been vetted by NHTSA.
An Individual Can Pass a Field Sobriety Test and an Officer Can Fail to Properly Administer a Test
Interviewer: Are they by definition actual tests, like can you pass these tests or are they like exercises?
Zach Peagler: Yes you can pass the tests and for instance each police officer is trained to give these tests in a specific manner and so not only can you pass the test, the police officer can fail in properly administering these tests.
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