Standardized Field Sobriety Tests: Validity
WHEN ARE THE STANDARDIZED FIELD TESTS VALID?
The standardized field sobriety tests, as set forth in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Student Manual (Feb. 2006 ed.), are described in Session VIII. The NHTSA manual provides the standards upon which every law enforcement officer is trained. One important piece of information about standardization is included in the manual which may help the DUI practitioner provide context to a jury.
Perhaps the most important statement about standardization can be found at VIII-19 which states:
IT IS NECESSARY TO EMPHASIZE THIS VALIDATION APPLIES ONLY WHEN:
- THE TESTS ARE ADMINISTERED IN THE PRESCRIBED STANDARDIZED MANNER
- THE STANDARDIZED CLUES ARE USED TO ASSESS THE SUSPECT’S PERFORMANCE
- 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.
I have not added capitalization or bold to emphasize the importance of this warning. The manual itself uses these indicia of importance at VIII-19. Use this portion of the manual in conjunction with the State’s burden of proof (The State must demonstrate substantial compliance with the NHTSA manual by clear and convincing evidence) and you have some compelling arguments to make to the trier of fact.
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