Field Sobriety Tests

Today’s DUI case was a 69 year old man from out of State. He was stopped in Baltimore County for speeding going 50 in a 30 and subsequently charged with DUI/DWI and speeding. He is alleged to have had red glassy eyes, slurred speech and poor field tests with the moderate odor of alcohol. He elected not to blow in the Government’s breath box thereby electing not to give additional evidence against himself (wise decision).

The Baltimore County Police Officer, a pleasant and agreeable young man, testified that there does come a time, considering age, that field gymnastics are not appropriate tests. However, he also said that FSTs are “standardized” tests and he grades them the same whether a suspect is 18 years old or 69 years old, as in this case. Now does that seem normal to you? Does that meet the common sense test? Despite his age and ailments he was actually able to stand on one leg for 30 seconds as requested with the use of his arms for balance.

In addition to the age consideration, this pleasant client had suffered a stroke a number of years back, he had 7 eye surgeries, multiple surgeries to other parts of bodies including knees, and multiple back injections for arthritis. I requested all these medical records for Court and timely provided the records to both the Government and the Court as evidence.

After the prosecutor/Government read this evidence (ahead of the trial date), considered my client’s age and his overall medical condition who thinks the Government did the right thing and dropped the charges?

You guessed it- no such luck. So up goes the cop on the stand who indicates that my older client was able to stand on one leg for 30 seconds while holding his arms out for balance (a task the absolute majority of the public can not do). The rest of the fields were as you might expect them to be, somewhat problematic. I think the officer probably understood that this guy was not impaired, but he has his arrest numbers to keep up and was just doing his job. However, that does not mean the Government/prosecutor should have cart blanche to waste tax payer money on cases like this.

Somewhere along the line it seems that winning (or losing- as the case may be) cases became the goal of the Government and not the pursuit of Justice. Needless to say, the Judge found the Defendant NOT GUILTY of all alcohol charges.

The FSTs or roadside gym tests are ridiculous and those accused of impaired driving should not take them. They are engineered for you to fail and only the most agile will pass these tests. The Judges place way too much weight on these tests and therefore it is wise not to give more ammunition to the Government in this regard. If our Government through it’s prosecutors and the Cops are honestly going to ask a 70 year old man to perform these nonsense exercises and then actually evaluate them for impairment, what chance do the rest of us have at half that age? It goes to prove the point that the Government and the Courts blindly place too much weight on these exercises no matter who the Defendant is. These “tests” should be scrapped completely and the Courts and law enforcement should rely instead on the driving indicators and the normal actions of the Defendant to determine impairment. It would be a far more accurate and just indication of impairment. Perhaps the day will come when our law makers and Courts will embrace the obvious and scrap the useless.