Why No Citizen Suspected of DUI-DWI Should Attempt to Perform Roadside Sobriety Tests

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Police Officers want you to try to perform roadside agility or sobriety evaluations, to help them convict you

Police officers usually ask drivers whom they suspect of driving under the influence of either drugs or alcohol to perform "standardized field sobriety tests." Exactly what evaluations you will be asked to perform varies, but these roadside exercises may include the officer evaluating you asking for you to submit to a horizontal gaze nystagmus evaluation (an eye test). Next, the officer may ask you to perform a 9-step heel-to-toe walking pattern, with your hands to your sides, and then to turn 180? in a "baby step" fashion and return down the same line, in the same fashion, and a 30-second leg raise test. Other tests often include the officer requesting that you recite a partial alphabet, such as C to Q (without singing). You may also be asked (at the roadside) to give a breath sample into a handheld alcohol device that is also VOLUNTARY. The field sobriety tests are, without a doubt, the greatest source of flawed arrests and faulty convictions in DUI-DWI cases in this nation.


Roadside agility and sobriety evaluations are VOLUNTARY in virtually 100% of the states

Virtually no one isaware that they have an absolute right to NOT attempt to perform these agility and medically-created evaluations that are being offered by a law enforcement officer that often has an arrest quota to fill. Although some parts of a DUI-DWI arrest are NOT voluntary [e.g., being asked to submit to the legally-required, state-administered test of your breath, blood or urine (or all three)] on OFFICIAL, evidential testing devices (i.e., one that is systematically maintained and periodically checked for accuracy) prints off a document or test card showing the details of the test given and the results), the roadside agility evaluations are not mandatory (to be able to keep your driver's license or a limited license to drive). These evaluations are NOT scientifically validated (by peer-reviewed studies) to have a high degree of scientific correlation. To the contrary, these evaluations are subject to faulty instructions, difficult terrain and lighting, & misinterpretation.


Independent researchers have found that the "standardized" field sobreity evaluations were given or graded incorrectly nearly 100% of the time

Dr. J.L. Booker, Ph.D., from TX in 2004 reported that in excess of 98% of the officers giving the three NHTSA standardized field sobriety evaluations do at least one of the three "standardized" field evaluations incorrectly in all cases he studied. The NHTSA training manuals---all of them---state that incorrect administration of the evaluations "compromises the validity" of the tests. Walden & Platt, two psychologists (Ph.D level) (also from TX) came to the same conclusion in 2007 after viewing hundreds of video tapes that depicted how the officers were administering and scoring these evaluations. More studies by scientists (Whyte CA, Petrock AM, Rosenberg M) reported in 2009 that the previous assumptions by NHTSA researchers of the onset angle of HGN evidence were substantially incorrect, leading to many false arrests. Dr. M.P. Hlastala et. al., statistically disproved the claims of high reliability of the so-called "Validation Studies" in 2005. Dr. S. Rubenzer reviewed the studies.


Courts routinely allow field sobriety exercises to be "vouched for" by police in court, despite overwhelming proof that the tests are done wrong

Judges in courts across America have "bought into" the claimed reliability of these field evaluations as "tests" believing, it would appear, that if the government promulgated and endorses use of these evaluations, they must be "valuable" tools in the effort to deter DUI-DWI offenses. The proof of how much the courts have bought the "hook, line and sinker" is the horrifying fact that about 6,000 reported appellate opinions indicate that the words "fail" or "failed" AND "test" AND "field" show up in the same sentence. These evaluations were NEVER intended to determine "pass-fail", as has been stated in more than a dozen speeches by the creator of these field evaluations, Dr. Marcelline Burns, Ph.D. Yet, court cases are allowed to be tried and convictions obtained on this bogus, false evidence across America. Only recently have several federal & state courts across America called for extensive hearings to review these claims and ultimately declare the "science" to be totally lacking.


Multiple causes of bad performance on roadside agility tests can create a bad "score", when the equivocal results don't mean alcohol impairment exists

You cannot win if you attempt any of these tests. They are all subjective, and the only judge and jury at the scene is the police officer. Yes, if you are lucky, the tests are being audio and video recorded so that you have a defense as to your responses or the adequacy of the testing itself. Even in the best scenario, you can get the tests mostly correct, with good excuses why you were not perfect, and the police officer can use any mistakes he or she "sees" as a reason to arrest you for DUI-DWI. A video of you stumbling, bumbling and slurring your words gives great credence to the officer's contention that you were under the influence, even if there is no scientific evidence of a blood, breath or urine test result. No one is ever absolutely perfect on these evaluations, especially at 3 A.M., on the side of the road, after you have been awake for 20 hours, and you are naturally tired. In the end, this VOLUNTARY evidence you give can convict you of DUI-DWI, when you were 100% sober.

Additional Resources

© 2009, William C. Head, Atlanta, GA

Dr. M.P. Hlastala's Web Site

The Author's Biographical Profile

National Book on DUI-DWI Laws

Michigan Bar article about flawed roadside testing

NHTSA's "claimed" reliability of field testing

Dr. Steven Rubenzer's Review of Lack of Scientific Proof

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