Non-Standardized Field Tests
“Improved Sobriety Testing,” DOT HS 806512 (January 1984), is a report issued by the Department of Transportation that makes the conclusion that a combination of three different tests gives an officer firm data upon which to base an arrest decision. The three tests consist of the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk-and-turn test, and the one-leg stand test. Further, the report implies that other general and common field sobriety tests do not furnish the “firm data” that is required for the arrest decision.
For instance, a DUI suspect may be asked to pronounce certain words, recite the alphabet, or write certain statements. A DUI defense attorney in Orange County realizes these “tests” cannot be used to truly indicate sobriety. Unfamiliarity with the English language, imperfect diction, or problems in literacy might result in poor performance on the “alphabet test.” Likewise, shoddy penmanship, anxiety, or disease may result in poor performance on a handwriting test.
At least one study (Galbraith, “Alcohol: Its Effect on Handwriting,” 31 J. Forensic Sci. 2 at 580 (1986)) has concluded that handwriting is not an accurate basis to measure the blood alcohol concentration of the writer. Most police departments use a standard alcohol influence report form that requests the examining officer to obtain a handwriting sample from the defendant. The sample obtained is then generally used to reveal that the defendant’s handwriting was sloppy, illegible, or generally difficult to read. The prosecution then claims that poor handwriting reflects poor motor skills, which therefore circumstantially demonstrates the effect of alcohol on the defendant. If you were requested to give a handwriting sample and did so, your Orange County DUI attorney can use the Galbraith article or similar authority to demonstrate that it is not possible to make an accurate estimation of BAC (or impairment) through the study of handwriting.
If you would like to discuss your DUI case with a knowledgeable and experienced Orange County DUI defense lawyer, please call Coffey and Coffey at 800-706-7888.