We’ve spent some time discussing the various parts of the Standard Field Sobriety Tests over the previous eight blogs in this series, so today we will delve a little deeper into the actual scoring portion of the assessment. How you performed on those tasks determines whether or not the officer awards points. If you remember from some of the prior articles, scoring a certain amount of points on any one section is enough probable cause for the police to arrest you for driving under the influence. For example, reaching a total of four points during the optical examination or two points on the walking stage of the divided attention tests are all that is necessary to justify the stop.
But let’s take a closer look at this scoring for the one leg stand. A suspect may be scored one point for each of the following reasons:
First, one point will be assessed if the suspect sways while balancing. The officer is trained not to be too critical in this scoring as the suspect is a living, breathing person, and some sway will be expected. The swaying that can be scored is a marked sway, such as a back-and-forth motion while the suspect maintains the one-leg-stand position.
Another scoring factor is when the suspect uses the arms for balance, by raising their arms six or more inches from the side of the body. Again it must be taken into account, the distance from the body that the suspect might normally start with, such as in the case of bodybuilders.
If the suspect puts their foot down, they are only given one point on this scoring factor. However, if the foot is down three times, the test will be deemed over and insufficiently completed. The suspect has been instructed to keep watching their raised foot and to count out loud, but if they do not follow either of these instructions, they are not scored any points, as it is not a part of any scoring factor. If the suspect counts too slow it is imperative that the officer stop the test after thirty seconds have elapsed as this may affect the scoring and validity of the test. The officer is trained to time thirty seconds of total test time. If the suspect counts too fast the officer is instructed to slow them down.
Finally, the last scoring factor in this test is when a suspect hops on one foot. This is scored only if they resort to hopping on the anchor foot in order to maintain balance. It should not be scored if the suspect is having difficulty by moving the anchor foot back and forth. The officer is supposed to be able to distinguish this as part of their training and to allow the suspect this benefit.
The degree of reliability attached to this test if it is demonstrated and scored properly is 65%.
The officer is trained to use this as probable cause to arrest the suspect for DWI. For purposes of the arrest report and courtroom testimony, the officer is trained that it is not simply enough to report the suspect’s “score” on the three tests. The numeric scores are only important to the police officer in the field to determine probable cause. It is insufficient to secure a conviction, and must be accompanied by more descriptive evidence.
The officer is trained that they must be able to describe how the suspect performed, and exactly what the suspect did when he or she performed the test and when these clues occurred. The manual provided to the officer has a standard note-taking guide which should be utilized to assist the officer and prove the case.
Again, there are procedures and protocols in place that the police must follow in order to prove probable cause in arresting someone suspected of drunk driving. If you have been charged with a DWI and the officer did not follow the proper procedure when asking you to perform any of the Standard Field Sobriety Tests, seek legal assistance immediately. Give me a call, defense attorney Leon Matchin, today to start building your case. Phone (732) 662-7658.
Next time, we’ll wrap up everything we’ve reviewed so far in Part X and talk about what it all means for you in regards to a DWI charge.