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San Francisco TV Network Reports DUI Field Sobriety Tests Flawed

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James W Harwood
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On October 27, 2011, KTVU, the San Francisco Fox affiliate aired a special report on the reliability of field sobriety tests.  Their results confirm what many of us in the DUI defense community have known for years:  Even sober drivers often fail the field sobriety tests used in California.

In one part of the report, they showed footage from a camera mounted to a police officer’s dash.  In the footage, the officer attempted to demonstrate a test requiring the subject to stand on one leg.  However, the officer could not balance on one leg himself, losing his balance almost immediately.  We have to assume the officer was sober when he attempted the test.  Therefore, if a person who is sober, trained to conduct the test, and has conducted it in the past cannot pass the test, how can the test be a reliable indicator of sobriety?

The California Highway Patrol officer who was interviewed for the piece claimed that he had stopped thousands of suspected drunk drivers in his experience, but had never seen a sober person fail a field sobriety test.  Even the staunchest proponents of field sobriety tests will tell you that they are not accurate 100% of the time.  This officer’s claim of 100% accuracy shows a bias by law enforcement.  The truth is officers do not use field sobriety tests to clear the innocent.  They use them to build evidence against a person who they have already decided to arrest.   

The report can be found at http://www.ktvu.com/news/29609407/detail.html.

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