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Sushi Inspector
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
“Field Sobriety Tests”: Designed for Failure?
Posted by Lawrence Taylor on October 21st, 2004
Roadside field sobriety tests (“FSTs”) are commonly used by police officers in DUI investigations to determine whether a driver is under the influence of alcohol. Typically, they consist of a battery of 3-5 excercises, such as walk-and turn, one-leg stand, “nystagmus” (“follow the pencil with your eyes”), finger-to-nose, alphabet recitation, “Rohmberg” (eyes-closed-position-of-attention), etc. The officer may subjectively decide whether the individual “failed”, or he may decide after applying recent federal “standardized” scoring.

These DUI tests have an aura of scientific credibility. Unfortunately, however, they have no real basis in science and are almost useless in a drunk driving case. First, as any traffic officer or DUI attorney knows, the decision to arrest is made at the driver’s window; the FSTs given supposedly to determine probable cause to arrest are actually for the purpose of gathering evidence. Second, since the officer has already made up his mind, his subjective decision as to whether a person passed or failed field sobriety tests is suspect: as with any human, he will “see” what he expects to see. Third, the conditions under which the field sboriety tests are taken almost guarantee failure: usually late at night, possibly cold, along a graveled or sloped roadside, with bright headlights from passing cars (setting up wind waves), the officer’s flashlight and patrol car’s strobe and headlights providing the lighting — and given to a person who is nervous, frightened and completely unfamiliar with the tests.

Fourth, field sobriety tests are irrelevant and, in fact, designed for failure.

What scientific basis exists to validate FSTs in a DUI investigation? Only a “study” by a private business firm, the “Southern California Research Institute”, with a grant from the federal government to find a “standardized” battery of usable DUI tests. To earn their money, SCRI came up with three tests which, they said, were not foolproof but were much better than all of the other FSTs that were being used. Yet after some study even this company concluded that, using the three standardized tests, 47 percent of the subjects tested would have been arrested for DUI — even though they were under the .10% limit. (Burns and Moskowitz, Psychophysical Tests for DWI Arrest: Final Report, DOT-HS-802-424, NHTSA, 1977.) The company was sent back to the drawing board and, in 1981 came up with some better figures: only 32 percent of those who “failed” the tests were actually innocent. (Tharp, Burns and Moskowitz, Development and Field Sobriety Test of Psychophysical Tests for DWI Arrests: Final Report, DOT-HS-805-864, NHTSA, 1981.)

Well, SCRI was paid to put their stamp of approval on a set of field sobriety tests. But what has been the reaction of the (non-profit) scientific community? In 1991, Dr. Spurgeon Cole of Clemson University conducted a study on the accuracy of FSTs. His staff videotaped individuals performing six common field sobriety tests, then showed the tapes to 14 police officers and asked them to decide whether the suspects had “had too much to drink and drive”. Unknown to the officers, the blood-alcohol concentration of each of the 21 DUI subjects was .00%, stone sober. The results: the officers gave their opinion that 46% of these innocent people were too drunk to drive! In other words, the field sobriety tests were hardly more accurate at detecting intoxication than flipping a coin. Cole and Nowaczyk, “Field Sobriety Tests: Are they Designed for Failure?”, 79 Perceptual and Motor Skills Journal 99 (1994).
 

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Sushi Inspector
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
and the breathalyzer...
My fiance owns an FDA drug testing clinical trial company and it is madatory to do breathalyzer testing on every studied patient in clinical trials due to drug interactions that she prescribes.
I have learned a lot about the breathalyzer by tests that we have done on our own. Her machine is calibrated and regulated by the FDA. Much stricter than the local cop shop. On bad reading with one dose of a new experimental drug and a patient could die. With this scrutinization, my 7 year old son blew a .03% BAC. after I blew "hot" with alcohol in my mouth 10 minutes prior. He blew before I blew "hot" and blew a .00 for those of you who want to make a wise crack and are doubting thomases.
Wicky

Here is some more info on the breathalyzer according to Lawrence Taylor



The “Mouth Alcohol” Problem
Posted by Lawrence Taylor on March 30th, 2005

One of the most common causes of falsely high breathalyzer readings is the existence of mouth alcohol.

The breathalyzer’s internal computer is making a major assumption when it captures a breath sample and then analyzes it for blood alcohol concentration (BAC): It assumes that the alcohol in the breath sample came from alveolar air — that is, air exhaled from deep within the lungs. Since we are trying to measure how much alcohol is in the blood, rather than in the breath, the computer applies a formula to translate the results. This formula is based upon the average ratio of alcohol in the breath to alcohol in the blood. This so-called partition ratio is 1 to 2100 — that is, in the average person there will be 2100 units of alcohol in the blood for every unit measured by the breathalyzer in the breath. Put simply, the machine’s computer multiplies the amount of alcohol detected in the suspect’s breath sample by 2100 and reports that as the blood alcohol level.

But what if the alcohol in the sample is not from the lungs?

Too bad: the machine doesn’t know any better. If there is even a miniscule amount of alcohol in the DUI suspect’s mouth or throat, it will be tremendously magnified by the breathalyzer and it will report a much higher BAC than the true one.

Alcohol can be found in the mouth for a number of reasons. The most obvious is that the individual has recently consumed some alcohol; it usually takes 15-20 minutes for the alcohol to dissipate through the rinsing action of saliva. Or he/she may have recently used mouthwash or breath freshener (most contain fairly high levels of alcohol) — possibly to disguise the smell of alcohol when being pulled over by police. See my earlier post, Breath Fresheners and Breathalyzers.

The most common source of mouth alcohol is from eructation (burping or belching). This causes the liquids and/or gases from the stomach — including alcohol if it is there — to rise up into the soft tissue of the esophegus and mouth, where it will stay until it has dissipated. For this reason, police officers are required to keep a DUI suspect under observation for at least 15 minutes prior to administering a breath (in reality, however, many if not most officers are unwilling to stand around watching a suspect for a quarter of an hour).

Acid reflux can greatly exacerbate this problem. As was discussed in a previous post, GERD, Acid Reflux and False Breathlayzer Results, the stomach is normally separated from the throat by a valve. When this valve becomes herniated, there is nothing to stop the liquid contents in the stomach from rising and permeating the esophegus and mouth. The contents — including any alcohol — is then later breathed into the breathalyzer. Since it has not yet been absorbed through the stomach wall and into the blood and eventually into the lungs, this alcohol should not be read as breath from the lungs and multiplied by 2100. Of course, the breathalyzer doesn’t know this. See the article by Kechagias, et al., “Reliability of Breath-Alcohol Analysis in Individuals with Gastroesophogeal Reflux Disease”, 44(4) Journal of Forensic Sciences 814 (1999).

The mouth alcohol problem can also be created in other ways. Dentures, for example, will trap alcohol for much longer than 15-20 minutes. Periodental disease can also create pockets in the gums which will contain the alcohol for longer periods. And so on…. As the American Medical Association’s Committee on Medical Problems concluded in its Manual for Chemical Tests for Intoxication (1959):
 

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I work with breathalyzers all the time. Yes, if you use mouthwash and then take a reading it can come up showing a reading of greater than .000. BUT most companies/organizations that use these machines have a policy that if someone claims to have used mouthwash they can rinse their mouth out with water and immediately try again. 99% of the time it then gives a reading of
.000 because it's rinsed the substance containing alcohol out of the mouth. It does not take 15-20 minutes to rinse out - that is false. I do this on a daily basis and it's an immediate effect with rinsing.

As far as medical conditions it's extremely rare that any condition will give a BAC reading greater then the legal limit to drive (.08 in most states), so even if it comes up with something it's not enough to arrest someone.

And if your wife works in clinical trials then if they are that concerned about people with alcohol in their system and taking meds, they should be doing urine or hair folicle testing for more acurate results. BAC are not meant to be the be-all-end-all to determine one's state of intoxication. That is why when someone does give a BAC over the legal limit to drive they are taken into custody and more conclusive test is done at the jail.

I also would like to point out the dates on the references you gave below are outdated as well...things change quikly in this field...

My two cents...
 

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Sushi Inspector
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I work with breathalyzers all the time. Yes, if you use mouthwash and then take a reading it can come up showing a reading of greater than .000. BUT most companies/organizations that use these machines have a policy that if someone claims to have used mouthwash they can rinse their mouth out with water and immediately try again. 99% of the time it then gives a reading of
.000 because it's rinsed the substance containing alcohol out of the mouth. It does not take 15-20 minutes to rinse out - that is false. I do this on a daily basis and it's an immediate effect with rinsing.

As far as medical conditions it's extremely rare that any condition will give a BAC reading greater then the legal limit to drive (.08 in most states), so even if it comes up with something it's not enough to arrest someone.

And if your wife works in clinical trials then if they are that concerned about people with alcohol in their system and taking meds, they should be doing urine or hair folicle testing for more acurate results. BAC are not meant to be the be-all-end-all to determine one's state of intoxication. That is why when someone does give a BAC over the legal limit to drive they are taken into custody and more conclusive test is done at the jail.

I also would like to point out the dates on the references you gave below are outdated as well...things change quikly in this field...

My two cents...

Ahhh a vested interest point of view!!! I love it.
 

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Some guys never learn.
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This confludes the video. Now turn off the camera so we can take a mutha fuckin billy club to Mr Turners mutha fuckin drunk ass.
 

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I am wondering if Wicky got in trouble with the law. He is posting a bunch of DUI stuff on multiple boards. I hope you didn't dude. That would suck.
 

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Sushi Inspector
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I am wondering if Wicky got in trouble with the law. He is posting a bunch of DUI stuff on multiple boards. I hope you didn't dude. That would suck.

No trouble here. All is well. Life is good. I've never had a DUI nor have I ever been arrested for anything.
I was just eating dinner at Chilis last night. Had one margarita and shrimp pasta something or other. As I was leaving, three units pulled in all with "DUI patrol" on the side of their units. Just made me think. Hmmmmmm. One margarita, I could be .08 unlike what the little DMV BAC book chart says. I know how the breathalyzer works or should I say doesn't work.
I ate, then swilled the rest of my margarita just before leaving. I would have blown "hot" and could have been hauled in. For one drink. The DUI laws are going to far. Now they are working on a lower BAC than .08. I don't want to live in a police state. I love this country and I have been to many others around the world. Statistics are skewed. Period. It boils down to emotions and money to create new laws. Skewed statistics are used to back those laws.
 

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It boils down to emotions and money to create new laws. Skewed statistics are used to back those laws.
Loosing a loved one to a drunk driver is very emotional.

The best way to drink outside the home is to have a designated driver. It's not that hard. Why take the chance.

At least have a drink in the Bar before your meal. Then eat over the next hour and you should be fine. I don't recommend making your Margarita the last thing you consume on your way out of a dinner.
 

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Sushi Inspector
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Loosing a loved one to a drunk driver is very emotional.

The best way to drink outside the home is to have a designated driver. It's not that hard. Why take the chance.

At least have a drink in the Bar before your meal. Then eat over the next hour and you should be fine. I don't recommend making your Margarita the last thing you consume on your way out of a dinner.

Thanks for the advice SCmoney. I have almost lost loved ones to a drunk driver. Ultimately, through complications of the accident a friend was lost.
The guy who did it was hammered. Couldn't stand up. Four times .08 though. Fortunately, where the accident happened, the next off ramp was Scripps Memorial Hospital or it could have been worse.
 

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I finally got to watch the video now that I am home...thats fantastic. My favorite line is "my life is already suspended!" hil:)
 

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Sushi Inspector
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I finally got to watch the video now that I am home...thats fantastic. My favorite line is "my life is already suspended!" hil:)
I think the video was staged or they would have cuffed him for being a threat. JMO. Still funny though.
 

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On the hands to your side test one foot up in the air if you sway 1-2 inches you will fail if your foot is not at the specified 6 inches up you will fail.(as in 7 inches or even 8)

But how do you measure how high your foot is suppose to be up you have to guess it.Try standing without swaying 1-2 inches i bet alot cant do it sober.

The ones i saw on tv where they make you count on your fingers with your thumb touching the other fingers while counting foward then backwards shit i cant even get to thru the first part even if i went 2 weeks without a beer.
 

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Sushi Inspector
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
No Doubt!! It is all about the money!!! Almost!!
 

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Dear Wicky:

I want to thank you for posting the information regarding sobriety field tests and breathalyzer myths. I found your post to be well written, informative and directly on point with the topic.

I explain these facts to family and friends whenever asked including requests to search vehicles by law enforcement. Field sobriety tests are the first nail in your conviction coffin do not do it---especially if you have consumed ANY alcohol.

[Note: To the zealots I can have a glass of wine at dinner and not be impaired but I certainly do not want to go to jail to prove my BAC is .03.]

Oh! and by all means keep your mouth shut and be respectful---but politely decline tests.

Great stuff Wicky.

Very truly yours,

KAP
 

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Sushi Inspector
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Dear Wicky:

I want to thank you for posting the information regarding sobriety field tests and breathalyzer myths. I found your post to be well written, informative and directly on point with the topic.

I explain these facts to family and friends whenever asked including requests to search vehicles by law enforcement. Field sobriety tests are the first nail in your conviction coffin do not do it---especially if you have consumed ANY alcohol.

[Note: To the zealots I can have a glass of wine at dinner and not be impaired but I certainly do not want to go to jail to prove my BAC is .03.]

Oh! and by all means keep your mouth shut and be respectful---but politely decline tests.

Great stuff Wicky.

Very truly yours,

KAP
A true poet!!
 
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