Written by attorney David Nelson Jolly

DUI History: Standardized Field Sobriety Test Training

Published with permission from the book, DUI/DWI: The History of Driving Under the Influence, David N. Jolly. Outskirts Press (2009)

The History of Law Enforcement

Standardized Field Sobriety Test Training

An imperative component of proper law enforcement training in the DUI arena is certification in standardized field sobriety testing. Typically this training is included in the police academy training. The NHTSA DUI detection and standardized field sobriety testing curriculum consists of 16 sessions that span approximately 22 hours of instruction. The training is fairly standardized but NHTSA recognizes there may be some need of flexibility in the curriculum, and as such they state that:

All of the training objectives are considered appropriate and essential for police officers who wish to become proficient at detecting evidence of DWI and at describing that evidence in written reports and verbal testimony. All of the subject matter is considered necessary to achieve those objectives. All of the learning activities are needed to ensure that the students master the subject matter. This course is “flexible" in that it can easily be expanded since it does not cover all dimensions of DWI enforcement.

SFST Instructor Manual (2006) at 7.

Further, despite the accepted flexibility in training NHTSA emphasizes that:

[V]alidation applies only when: the tests are administered in the prescribed, standardized manner; the standardized clues are used to assess the suspect’s performance; and the standardized criteria are employed to interpret that performance. If any one of the standardized field sobriety test elements is changed, the validity is compromised.

SFST Student Manual (2006) at VIII-19.

After the officer is certified he/she must attend an 8 hour (16 hours for instructors) refresher course every two years. More information on the history of the standardized field sobriety testing program will be covered in Chapter 5.

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