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Standardized Field Sobriety Tests v. Non-Standardized Tests

Posted by John Roberson III | Jan 09, 2024 | 0 Comments

During a DUI investigation, police use testing to determine whether someone is under the influence of alcohol. First, there's the standardized tests like the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), Walk-and-Turn (WAT), and One-Leg Stand (OLS) that are pretty much the gold standard. These aren't just random tests; they've been researched a for years. One study in 2006 found, for example, a whopping 91% accuracy at the 0.08% BAC level with these tests. A fairly high finding of reliability.

But then, you've got the other side of the coin – non-standardized tests. These are the wild cards of DUI testing. Let's talk about a few that I've seen officers in Alaska use and some that I've only recently learned about:

  • Finger-to-Nose Test: It's like a sobriety game of Simon Says. Close your eyes, touch your nose. Seems simple, but it's all about checking balance and coordination.
  • Alphabet Test: Start a E and end at P. Not as easy as it sounds, right? This one tests your cognitive abilities under pressure.
  • Hand Pat Test: This involves patting your hand on your thigh, switching between palm and back. It's like a rhythm test, and officers are watching for any hiccups in the pattern.
  • Finger Count: Counting fingers might sound easy, but under pressure, it can be a different story.
  • Rhomberg Balance Test: This one's a bit of a balancing act – literally. Stand up, tilt your head back, close your eyes, and guess when 30 seconds have passed.
  • Handwriting Test: Can you write a sentence or draw a shape while under the influence? It's about fine motor skills.
  • Counting Down: Start at 89 and count down to a specified number. 

The thing is, these non-standardized tests haven't gotten the same academic spotlight as the big players like HGN. So, it's harder to say for sure how reliable they are. In legal situations, this can be a bit of a gray area. While they might give some clues, they don't have the same level of scientific backing as the standardized tests do. Knowing about the various tests and whether they are valid or not can play a role in a criminal defense case. Talk to a lawyer with experience in dealing with and reviewing these tests.

About the Author

John Roberson III

10+ YEARS OF COMBINED CRIMINAL DEFENSE EXPERIENCE 35+ CRIMINAL JURY TRIALS 500+ CASES ANDCHARGES RESOLVED 18+ YEARSIN ALASKA Experienced & Aggressive Criminal Lawyer About Law Office of John H. Roberson III, LLC John brings diverse experience, dedication, and legal knowledge to each ca...

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