3 Phases of DWI Detection
The National Highway Safety and Traffic Administration sets out guidleines that every officer is supposed to follow in determining whether to arrest of not arrest a subject
1. Vehicle in MotionPhase one: Vehicle in Motion- (VIM) The Officer observes the vehicle in operation. There are two parts of this phase. First is the reason they caught officers attention, ( Attention can be drawn to the vehicle for many reason other than driving infractions such as equipment violation, expired brake tag, etc.) Second is how the subject stops, e.g. Failure to respond to officer*s commands, stopping in middle of street, hitting curb. What the officer sees in making his decision in VIM are called *cues*. There are 30 total cues in VIM.
2. Personal ContactPhase two: Personal contact (PC)-2 questions. First, do you ask subject to exit the car?(some jurisdictions mandate this). Does the officer smell alcohol, see evidence of alcohol use, notice unusual actions? Second, what do you see, hear, and/or smell.
It is at this time that the officer will use divided attention tests that require the driver to concentrate on two things at a time. This includes questioning techniques and psychophysical (mind/body) tasks. Examples are asking for two things simultaneously, asking interrupting or distracting questions, asking unusual questions. NHSTA SPECIFICALLY STATES CONCERNING DIVIDED ATTENTION TESTS; *THESE TESTS ARE NOT AS RELAIBLE AS THE STANDARDIZED FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS, BUT THEY CAN STILL BE USEFUL FOR OBTAINING EVIDENCE OF IMPAIRMENT. THESE TESTS DO NOT REPLACE THE SFSTS*
Aside 3: Considering these tasks are not scientifically validated, in fact have no scientific basis at all, and are done after being stopped by the police, lights flashing, etc. , what does it prove, Nervousness or impairment?
3. Pre-arrest ScreeningPhase three*Pre-arrest screening- First is to administer tests, and second is a decision to arrest or not arrest.
During all phases of DWI detection the NHSTA stresses the importance of complete and clear investigative notes. Good SFST testing, without sufficient backup documentation, can lead to negative consequences. As NHSTA states, evidence gathered during the detection phase process must establish the elements of the violation, and must be completely documented to support successful prosecution of the defendant. This evidence is largely sensory (sight, smell hearing) in nature and therefore is extremely short lived. Field notes provide the information necessary to complete required DWI report forms and assist the officer in preparing a written account of the incident.
IMPORTANT: To say it another way, if it isn*t written then it didn*t happen. NHSTA stresses that report writing and testimony from those notes is an equal, if not the most important, component in DWI prosecution. There is nothing worse for a prosecutor, or better for a defense attorney, than to have an officer witness start remembering facts that exist nowhere in the report.
Thus for the prosecutor, communication with law enforcement to have them focus on preparing complete and concise narratives of their observations and actions during the 3 phases are of paramount importance.
The same goes for courtroom testimony. As NHSTA dictates, it is the responsibility of the officer to:
a. Recognize significant evidence
b. Compile complete, accurate field notes
c. Prepare a complete, accurate, detailed report