Interviewer: What are some of the common misconceptions that people have about the standardized field sobriety tests?
Michael Munoz: The first misconception people have is they think they have to do them, which they don’t. The second misconception for the public is they honestly believe that these things are perfect science and they’re not. In a lot of ways, it’s voodoo science and a lot of the people that go and listen to these cases on juries, if you were to ask them to do these tests, they’d probably have a hard time doing them. So, field sobriety tests are subjective, it’s an officer making a call out on the scene, and a lot of different things going on but some of the misconceptions are that that’s pure science which really isn’t and also that people think they have to do them.
The Use of Field Sobriety Tests To Prosecute a Motorist in the State of Arizona
Interviewer: How can field sobriety tests be used against someone in court? How are they going to try to use it against someone?
Michael Munoz: First, they’re going to put an officer to testify in the stand and the officer’s going to talk about, how he had the person do the tests, he administered the tests, he’s going to talk about how the person performed the tests, what the person did incorrectly. Then, he’s going to argue based on his training and experience, he was showing signs and symptoms that he was impaired to a slightest degree. What they do is they set up all that evidence so that the prosecutor can later argue that all that proves that the person was guilty of the DUI.
Police Officers May Not Administer the Field Sobriety Tests Accurately
Interviewer: Have you ever seen instances where police officers are pretty inaccurate when they administer these tests?
Michael Munoz: Yes. There are times when officers make mistakes and when you talk to them about what they remembered and what they put down in the report, that’s just not correct. There are times when officers say that they saw issues in the field sobriety tests and when you talk to them about how they administered the tests, there are times when officers do their own testimony and you realize that the officers aren’t even administering the tests correctly, the way that they’re supposed to be standardized. Those are all ways to defend the DUI by showing that hey, this person might not have done well on the test but the person who was giving out the testing instructions did not do it accurately, so that’s what caused the bad result.
The Errors Committed by Police Officers When Administering Field Sobriety Tests
Interviewer: Which of the tests have you seen police officers conduct incorrectly most frequently? What are some examples of how they were conducted infrequently?
Michael Munoz: In terms of when they’re doing things incorrectly, they might ask you to do a Walk and Turn and they’ll say, “Put your foot heel to toe”. Some officers will say, “Well, I only marked them off if their heel to toe is more than inch apart”. I’ve heard other officers say that you have to touch heel to toe, otherwise they’ll always mark you off. That’s why we have a problem here because now, we have multiple officers saying different things, so which one is it? How did the person know what they’re supposed to do when they just followed the directions? Some officers say, you can have a little gap between heel to toe and some officers say you can’t. That’s a good example of standardized tests are becoming un-standardized very quickly.
The Walk and Turn Test Poses the Most Problems for Motorists Performing FSTs
Interviewer: Which is the exercise that people have most difficult getting correct or the one that they really messed up on the most, not the police officers but the individual?
Michael Munoz: The one I see the most problems with is the Walk and Turn because you’ll have to take certain number of steps start with a certain foot and go heel to toe and you’ll have to turn in a certain way. The Walk and Turn is the one I see the most and the One Leg Stand is not easy for people as well.