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    Thursday
    Feb042010

    Field Sobriety Tests in MIP Cases

    Yesterday I finished the last of three criminal drunk driving jury trials I had in the last week and a half.  In two of the trials, a major issue was the field sobriety tests performed by the officers.  In MIP cases, many times officers will perform field sobriety tests if the young person enforces their rights and refuses a preliminary breath test.  I have seen officers do everything from performing gaze nystagmus tests to simply stating that the young person smelled like alcohol.   For reasons ranging from what people see on tv to an overall belief that cops should always be believed, attorneys seem to think that field sobriety tests are valid methods of determining whether somebody has consumed alcohol.  This could not be further from the truth.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has three major field sobriety tests which are taught by the Michigan State Police to new officers, as well as taught during advanced drunk driving detection classes.  The three tests are the Heel-to-Toe Walk, the One-Leggeed Stand, and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test.  Although we are made to believe that these tests are accurate, in fact these tests are highly subjective and have a high rate of failure.  In the trial I just finished, the arresting officer even testified that they had witnessed many people who failed the sobriety tests, yet they were sober.  If you or your child is charged with an MIP because of field sobriety tests, do not plead guilty because the accuracy of these field sobriety tests are very defensible, as was indicated by the jury in the trial I just finished.

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