Last updated on March 1, 2016

There May be Distractions that Hinder the Performance of the Field Sobriety Tests

Interviewer: Have clients ever told you that they were distracted maybe with the lights that were occurring at the scene, maybe the police lights or the headlights?

Paul Tafelski: That’s a good point. There are all kinds of distractions out there and the clients do realize it when it’s too late.

For example, we have a lot of clients that are young girls that get pulled over and they might be wearing high heels. Then when the police get out of the car and do some of these tests, they’ll take off their heels so that they can balance better or do the one-legged stand or walk-and-turn.

Then they’re walking on a road that might have little pebbles or it might be 20 degrees outside if it’s wintertime or it might be wet or there might be a piece of glass on the ground, all kinds of things that can just interfere because you don’t have shoes on, or it could be like lights in their eyes or traffic whizzing by or people standing on the sidewalk watching them get in trouble by the police.

A Valid Reason for Refusing the Field Sobriety Tests is that there are too Many Ways For it to Go Wrong

There’s all kinds of distractions that occur, not to mention other cop cars pulling up, and before you know it you have two or three cop cars surrounding you and it’s a pretty nerve-wracking experience when you know that they’re trying to bust you for drinking, especially if you actually have been drinking. There’s all kinds of distractions, and again it circles back to why you don’t want to perform these field sobriety tests in the first place. There’s just too many ways for them to go wrong.

I have also seen police have people tilt their head back and touch their nose with the tip of their finger. I’ve seen them have them try to say the alphabet backwards.

The Basic Purpose of a FST is to Make People Look like They’re Impaired on Video

Some of those are getting kind of crazy. Those are things people would have difficulty with anytime of the day or night, but sometimes you do it, and when that’s happening, you realize that that’s simply for a cop trying to come up with tests to make people look bad so that if you show a videotape to a jury they think you’re drunk.

The Stress of Being Stopped by the Police and other Factors Virtually Guarantee Poor Performance in the Tests

Interviewer: Along those lines, there is also that one I heard of, the picking-up-the-coins test. Is that ever administered?

Paul Tafelski: That sounds like that will be something where they’re again trying to test your balance and your ability to move around. They’re all tricky, because you factor in that most of these situations occur late at night after people have gone to work, gone home and had dinner, went out to eat and met friends, had a few drinks and driving home, and now you add in the stress of the police being around, and so all these tests become more likely that you will perform poorly.

Posted in: Criminal Defense
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