Rachael Ray, a celebrity cook with her own television show, tried to perform roadside maneuvers on her show and was not able to do them very well. Roadside tests are given to people suspected of DUI. The officer had her do the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, which is an eye test, and part of the walk and turn test. The officer said roadside tests are intended to be a quick and easy way for an officer to determine whether a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Roadsides should not be administered “quickly” nor are they an “easy” way to determine whether a person is guilty of DUI.
Roadsides should be explained to a driver in detail to ensure that the driver knows how he or she is supposed to perform them. If the roadsides are not explained well and then the driver does not perform them properly, that is held against him or her. On the other hand, if a driver asks too many questions about how to perform the roadsides, that is held against him or her because the assumption is that he or she would be able to understand except he or she is drunk. The driver is at an additional disadvantage because he or she is not told how they are being “graded” on the tests. The officer simply asks the driver to perform the test, but does not tell them what he is looking for to successfully complete the tests.
For example, on the Rachael Ray Show, the officer said the HGN test is the most reliable because nystagmus is the involuntary jerking of eye. Before even starting the test itself, the officer instructed Ray not to move her head and just follow the tip of his pen with her eyes. When he began the test, Ray moved her head. Because she did not follow the instructions, this would be held against her regardless of whether she had nystagmus. Similarly, during other roadside tests, the officer will tell the driver to stand in a certain position before he gives instructions. If the person does not stand as instructed during the instruction phase, this is held against him or her regardless of their performance on the test itself.
Roadsides are not a simple or easy way to determine whether a person is sober because there can be innocent explanations for failing the tests. For example, a drunk person will have nystagmus, but what the officer did not say is that there are many causes of nystagmus that are not related to a person’s sobriety level, including that some people have naturally occurring nystamus. Some people have naturally poor balance, old age and weight can impact performance as well.
Unfortunately, officers often take the “clues” they see during roadside testing, and even if there may be an innocent explanation, they conclude that the “clues” are attributable to alcohol or drug use. While officers might try to rely on roadsides as a “quick and easy” way to decide whether a driver is drunk, a skilled defense attorney will show a jury that roadsides should not be heavily relied on and that a guilty verdict should not be “quick and easy.”
To see the clip of Rachael Ray doing roadsides visit: https://on.aol.com/video/rachael-ray-takes-the-field-sobriety-test-518642144