Almost without exception, an Orange County DUI attorney will have a client whose DUI police report indicates that the arrested person’s speech was slurred. This is important, not only because if true, allows the officer to conduct further tests, but because it also may lead a jury to a guilty verdict. After all, if the jury believes the suspect was so intoxicated he or she could not speak properly, they may also conclude that person was too intoxicated to drive.
The issue therefore becomes one of whether the police officer who makes the stop can objectively determine and accurately assess the suspect’s speech as “slurred.” Various studies on the subject have revealed some surprising results. The ability to determine slurred speech in another is far more subjective than one may expect.
Typically, any study that tries to gauge the level of alcohol intoxication by using speech ability begins with the test subject consuming some amount of alcohol. The test subject will be asked to speak or perhaps read some text a number of different times for evaluation by other test participants whose role is to determine the level of intoxication based solely on speech.
Initially, the test subject speaks when completely sober. This becomes the “benchmark.” That is, the listener will listen to the same words said again at various levels of intoxication and compare what they hear at that time to how the speech sounds when sober. It would be expected that as the amount of alcohol in the subjects’ system increases, so too would the listeners’ perception of slurred speech.
One study used actors to simulate “intoxicated speech” and also to “act sober” when in fact they had consumed alcohol for the purposes of the study. The results revealed that the listeners rated the actors as being inebriated far more often than when the actors were simulating intoxication than when the actors were actually intoxicated.
While that study clearly demonstrates that a listener cannot absolutely determine intoxication merely by listening to speech, it was conducted with actors simulating intoxication.
However, other studies that have been conducted strictly with test subjects actually consuming alcohol have led researchers to an interesting conclusion. Despite increasing amounts of alcohol consumption, approximately 20% of all test subjects exhibited no perceptible changes in their speech patterns.
To be clear, almost all studies conclude there are definite changes in speech articulation when measured between a sober condition and an inebriated condition. However, all researchers do not agree that slurred speech is evidence of intoxication. The conclusion the arresting officer made regarding slurred speech may be a basis for your Orange County DUI attorney to exclude evidence in your case.
If you’ve been arrested for DUI and are facing trial, get the help you need from an experienced Orange County DUI attorney who can best represent you. Call Mike Coffey today for a free initial consultation.