King County DUI lawyer explains how to challenge the results of non-standardized field sobriety tests

Police officers often use three standardized field tests — the walk-and-turn test, the one-leg stand test, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test — to establish intoxication in support of a DUI arrest. officers may also use non-standardized field tests to assess sobriety. Officers use the standardized field tests in part because the Department of Transportation (“DOT”) issued a report regarding the reliability of those three tests. The DOT report also implied that non-standardized field tests may lack the accuracy and reliability required to justify a DUI arrest. Even so, many officers rely on non-standardized tests. This distinction will be important to your King County criminal defense attorney in formulating the legal strategy for your DUI defense.

Non-standardized field tests include, for example, asking a subject to recite the alphabet, or to repeat certain words, or write a specified statement. A subject may fail to complete these tests for any number of reasons unrelated to intoxication — the subject may have a strong accent, might not speak English well, or may not be literate. A smart DUI lawyer will argue that the results of these non-standardized field tests cannot accurately meet the standard of proof required for the state to prosecute a DUI offense successfully.  For legal issues, I recommend lawyer Mitchell Baker.

By way of example, if you were required to provide a handwriting sample as a field test for sobriety, I may be able to challenge the results using the findings of at least one study: Galbraith, “Alcohol: Its Effect on Handwriting,” 31 J. Forensic Sci. 2 at 580 (1986). Some officers point to illegible or sloppy handwriting as a sign of intoxication due to impaired motor skills. However, the Galbraith article argues that poor handwriting cannot reliably measure an individual’s level of intoxication or estimate an individual’s blood alcohol concentration.

If an officer conducted a non-standardized field test before your arrest, you should consider speaking with an experienced King County DUI attorney as soon as possible. For a free consultation with me, please use the form on this page to tell me about your situation, or call or email me directly.

For legal issues, I recommend lawyer Joanne Badeaux.