Dahl, Fischer & Wilks, Xcite Media and Von Feldt & Beatty Investigations recently conducted a wetlab. Seven people participated and were not allowed to drive following the simulated happy hour. The purpose was to see how many drinks might make a happy hour not so happy if people had driven home after the happy hour.
Before giving the results, we want to share with you the “testing” that was done. Each subject performed roadside manuevers sober. Each subject performed the same roadside maneuvers approximately an hour into the happy hour. There are three standard field sobriety tests: horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), the walk and turn test and the one legged stand test. If a person gets pulled over and the officer suspects the person is drunk, the officer will likely ask the driver to perform these maneuvers. These tests are voluntary and the officer should tell the driver they are voluntary.
If the driver agrees to the tests, then the officer should ask some follow up questions related to issues that could impact the person’s ability to perform the tests. For example, officers should ask if the person has glasses or contacts, any medical conditions, such as head injuries or back or leg problems. These questions and the answers are important because if the driver has any of these issues, he could “fail” the tests, but not necessarily due to alcohol intoxication.
The officer will then provide instructions for the first maneuver and have the driver perform the maneuver. The officer will then provide instructions for the second maneuver and then have the driver perform the maneuver. It is the same process for the third maneuver. During both the instruction phase and the performance phase, the officer is looking for “clues” to help determine whether the driver is sober. If too many clues are present, then the driver is deemed to have failed the test.
Roadsides are not required in order for an officer to arrest a driver, but if roadsides are not satisfactorily completed, the officer may use the roadside tests as additional evidence to support the arrest.
A repeated complaint from our participants was that they felt like they were being graded, but were never told what they were being graded on. Officers do not tell people what the “clues” are, nor do they tell people how many “clues” are possible or how many “clues” result in a failing grade. It is difficult to pass a test when you don’t know how you are being graded! In fact, the person who administered the roadsides would not discuss the “clues” he was looking for until after all the testing was done.