Assuming that the defendant neither refused to cooperate nor was too incapacitated by a traffic accident, any Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) were administered at the scene of the arrest FSTs are intended to help a police officer determine if there is probable cause to arrest an individual for drunk driving; however, in many instances, the arresting officer has already determined that the suspect is guilty and the FSIs are administered solely to gather incriminating evidence. Because these tests have a certain tone of objectivity and scientific reliability about them, they often impress the jury, but in fact, a study conducted by Dr. Spurgeon Cole of Clemson University on the accuracy of FSTs revealed that FSIs were wrong approximately 50% of the time; thusly, they were no more accurate than flipping a coin. Samudrala Law‘s general Strategy to Beat Field Sobriety Tests is to expose to the jury that these tests are not as scientifically reliable and objective and as they appear, but instead are often unreliable and subjective procedures designed to set up the driver for failure.
Depending on the unique circumstances of the case, Samudrala Law will establish through effective cross-examination of the arresting officer that one or more of the follow conditions attributed to the defendant’s failure of a Field Sobriety Test:
The FSTs were administered under difficult conditions. These tests were designed to be administered to an individual wearing no shoes or athletic shoes on a smooth, level floor like that found in a well-lit courtroom not on a sloping, gravel-covered floor like that found on a poorly-lit highly roadside.
Samudrala Law will visit the scene where the FSTs were administered to take photographs and check the quality of the surface where the test were taken to see whether it was an angled or uneven surface, gravel, mud, or slickness. Other “unfair” conditions that could make it difficult for a defendant to successfully complete FSTs will be noted and recorded. These include the challenging weather conditions like rain, snow, or lightning; the powerful wind waves from passing cars; the blinding glare of police car’s headlights; and the strobe effect of the police car’s flashing roof-mounted lights.
Samudrala Law will also note what type of shoes the defendant was wearing during the tests. If the client was in high heels, western boots, or elevator shoes, performing certain FSIs in these kind of shoes could make it difficult for a defendant to successfully complete a FST. The officer should have at least had the defendant take of his/her shoes at the time that the FSTs were administered.
The defendant’s physical and/or emotional condition (independent of alcohol) negatively affected his/her performance during the FSTs.
Any illness, like a sinus affection which effects one’s balance, or a physiological disability, like arthritis which effects one’s steadiness, could have caused the defendant to perform poorly
Caffeine’s effects on the defendant’s motor skills, which involve delicate muscular coordination and accurate timing, negatively affected his/her performance during the FSTs.
The FSTs were administered after midnight in the early morning, which is during the low point of an individual’s Circadian Rhythm (the 24-hour biological in each of our bodies). Most noticeable when an individual experiences jet lag, the ill effects of an individual’s body clock being “out of whack” has been proven to cause individuals to perform poorly in tests administered during these time periods.
The arresting officer’s analysis was biased and lacked objectivity affected the results of the FSTs.
How Samudrala Law handles Bias Analysis: The bias or at least predisposition of the arresting officer must clearly be established as a factor in his testimony relating the client’s performance on the FSTs. The arresting officer will usually admit that no field sobriety test can by itself be considered as conclusive evidence that the defendant was under the influence. In other words, the officer will readily admit that and overview of all conduct and symptoms must be considered before concluding that a suspect is intoxicated. Thus, the impact of the field sobriety tests is minimized, and Samudrala Law can then develop for the jury that the officer is biased in taking the subjective overview.
he tests administered by the arresting officer were not one of the three Standardized Field Sobriety Tests -heel-to-toe, leg raise, and horizontal gaze nystagmus – which are federally recognized as the most sensitive and efficient.
The arresting officer did not administer the field sobriety test properly by not communicating all that was expected of the suspect.
The FSTs, in general, are so subjective and “unnatural” that even a sober person has problems performing them to the arresting officer’s standards.
Distorted Recall of Infromation
The arresting officer did not record and/or cannot now recall the results accurately.
Below are some common reasons an arresting police officer fails a suspect during a field sobriety test and Samudrala Law rebuttals making use of the above-mentioned tactics.
The suspect raised his/her arms during the performance of a balance test, e.g. heel-to-toe, leg raise, walking in a straight line. Samudrala Law will develop in cross-examination that using an individual’s arms for balance is a natural, instinctive thing to do. If the defendant was instructed not to use one’s arms during the test, then this action can probably be deemed very unnatural for even a sober person. How can a test be considered objective and viable when even a sober person would appear awkward and unnatural performing it? If the arresting officer denies that using your arms is a normal reaction to balancing, the officer’s testimony can be developed in such a way that the officer will lose credibility with the jury.
The suspect swayed during the performance of any balance test, e.g. heel-to-toe, leg raise, walking in a straight line. The DUl Defense Group will point out that studies have shown that body sway increased significantly only after 2.5 to 3 hours had passed after drinking had concluded, a. k.a. the hangover period, so the BAC of the driver during this time would probably measure below the legal limit. Prior to that time, studies have shown that there was little, if any noticeable sway in the Subjects.
The suspect performed the test too slowly. Samudrala Law will point out that no instructions with regard to the speed of completing the test were outlined for the suspect, not to mention this instruction is another example of an unnatural request.
The handwriting sample of written alphabet test performed in the courtroom during the trial is different that that obtained during the original FST administered. Samudrala Law can easily attribute an difference in slant or shakiness of the letters to the understandable nervousness of a person asked to write under such trying circumstances. The signatures will most likely look the same because this is such a simple task even for an intoxicated individual. In addition, the subjectivity of the officer can be pointed out by asking the arresting officer if he/she compared the signature after the original test was administered with the driver license signature. Very rarely will the arresting officer do this, which implies that he/she was not interested in administering a fair test to the defendant and, in fact, had probably already deemed the defendant as “drunk” before the test was even administered.
The suspect’s eye jerked early during the administering of the horizontal gaze nystagmus. The DUI Group will initially file for a motion to suppress the test results based upon the fact that the arresting officer is not qualified as ophthalmologic expert and thusly did not properly administer the test based upon National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommended procedures. If the motion is denied and the test results are admitted, then Samudrala Law will move to limit the form of the testimony. If this motion is denied, then Samudrala Law will conduct a vigorous cross-examination of the officer to establish Iris lack of expertise, the improper administration of the test, and the unreliability of the test itself In fact, nystagmus can occur because of many other reasons other than alcohol including brain damage, influenza, streptococcus infections, vertigo, measles, hypertension, arteriosclerosis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, psychogenic disorders, syphilis, Korsakotrs Syndrome, motion sickness, glaucoma, eye muscle fatigue, and even the time of the day.