Interviewer: Will a police officer always ask someone to perform these exercises?
Michael Munoz: A lot of it depends on the officer. Most of the time, yes, I’d say any officer who is trying to investigate a DUI is going to ask you to conduct those tests. There are time constraints and sometimes officers have maybe to the end of their shift and they don’t want to do them. There are times I’ve seen where someone might be very intoxicated to the point where they can’t stand up, sometimes officers will just not do the test at that point. The other possibility is someone just refuses to do the tests and then, the officers should not be forcing anybody to do those tests.
The Majority of DUI Arrests Occur at Night in the State of Arizona
Interviewer: Do Sobriety tests happen more frequently at night, would that be accurate?
Michael Munoz: Most DUI arrests happen at night time, so I’d say generally that is correct. I mean most of the field sobriety tests are administered at night time but they can also be administered during a day. There’s nothing that says that an officer can’t administer field sobriety tests during the day. As a matter of fact, if they did it during the day, then the subject doing the test might actually have an easier time because they can actually see clearly what the officer is trying to tell them to do but. More of them are going to be at night because most DUI arrests are at night time or in the early morning.
The Popular Field Sobriety Tests Are Being Administered for the Past 30 Years
Interviewer: How long have sobriety tests been going around? How long have police officers been conducting these? Have there been any changes and do they change frequently?
Michael Munoz: Largely, there are about five field sobriety tests; three have been standardized by NHTSA. Those are the ones that are supposedly accepted within the scientific community. The others, sometimes officers do but really they’re not certified. They’ve been doing them for at least about 30 years and they really have not changed that much. You have the Walk and Turn, the One Leg Stand, the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus and all these tests they’ve been doing for at least about 30 years.
It is a Mistake to Construe the Field Sobriety Tests as Merely Exercises
Interviewer: Are they kind of more like exercises more so than tests?
Michael Munoz: They are more than that. If they were just exercises, they’d be a lot easier. Really what the officer is doing is he’s giving you verbal commands at the same time. Some of these exercises, you’re literally on a one leg stand and you’re counting with your head back while you’re standing on one leg, that’s not easy to do. They have very tricky little rules to these things and if you deviate in the very slightest or if the officer just thinks you deviated, they will count that as a possible failure of the test.
The Role of Field Sobriety Tests as Prosecutorial Evidence in a DUI Case
Interviewer: How much weight do they actually have in court? I mean is it one of the bigger determining factors of the DWI or DUI?
Michael Munoz: That’s up to the jury to decide. But I can tell you if field sobriety tests have been administered, every prosecutor is going to try to get those in. The courts have said that the certified field sobriety tests are admissible, most courts will let those in, and an officer will testify to it. Field sobriety tests are just evidence that they try to use against a suspect to convict them. The courts are going to let that in to try to show evidence of impairment and that’s the whole point of a field sobriety test. So, anyone who’s completed those tests and goes to trial, can be assured that the officer is going to testify to everything that he observed.
In the State of Arizona Most Field Sobriety Tests and DUI Investigations are Not Videotaped
Interviewer: Is the police officer always going to video the “Performance of an individual”?
Michael Munoz: No. Actually in Arizona, most field sobriety tests and DUI investigations are not videotaped. They’re not videotaped by an officer or on Dashcams. A lot of states in other parts of the country use Dashcams and video on the officer and that is very rare in Arizona and most agencies do not use video at all.