Detecting intoxication is hard. Police and sheriff’s deputies may falsely report that drivers are intoxicated. They say the drivers smelled of alcohol, acted drunk, or sounded intoxicated. Juries are usually impressed by such testimony.
Research does not support officers’ self-reported ability to make such judgments accurately.
For example, carefully controlled studies testing police show they do little better than luck. That is, they’re not much better than flipping a coin.
This is also true of those who have been trained to recognize intoxication. And it’s true of experienced bartenders as well as lay people. So detecting intoxication is hard for anyone.
But testimony from police is sometimes enough to get convictions. And to send innocent people to jail.
Problem is Serious
Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests are subjective and have poor accuracy. That’s true even when trained officers properly use them.
About 30% of completely sober volunteers fail them under ideal conditions. An officer who pulls you over for suspicion and tests on the roadside isn’t an ideal condition.
Learn how to protect yourself. Visit Never Take a Field Sobriety Test Say DUI Lawyers. Discover more at Failed Field Sobriety Test Happens to Sober Drivers Often.
Alcohol breath testers don’t actually measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC). They only estimate it. And many things can effect their estimates. Because of their inaccuracy, they can send innocent people to jail.
Learn more at False Breathalyzer Results. Also at Accuracy of Breathalyzers a Threat to Law-Abiding Drivers.
The Innocent can be Arrested
Not even a legal BAC reading on an alcohol breath tester can always protect a person from arrest. In many places it can be overridden by police testimony asserting intoxication. Of course, this would result in arrest for DWI or other serious charges.
The only way to prove innocence under some circumstances may be to demand a blood test to prove actual BAC. See DUI Defendants and Alcohol Blood Tests.
Of course, there are three safe courses of action after drinking alcohol. One is to use a designated driver (DD). Another is to take alternative transportation. A third is to keep BAC well below the illegal level.
Even if innocent, it’s best to avoid arrest and trial. Detecting intoxication is hard. So don’t be a victim.
Resources: Detecting Intoxication is Hard
Brezina, C. Alcohol Offenses. Your Legal Rights. NY: Rosen, 2015.
Dasgupta, A. Beating Drug Tests and Defending Positive Results. Humana, 2010.
Goodman, K. and Simon, K. Stop Your Teen from Drinking & Driving. NY: Sterling, 2005.
Cole, S. Field sobriety tests: are they designed for failure? Percept Mot Skills. 1994, 79(1 Pt 1),99-104.
Rugel, D., et al. The influence of very low illumination on the postural sway. PLoS One. 2014, 9(8).
Whipple, R., et al. Altered sensory function and balance in older persons. J Geron, 1993, 48, Spec No. 71-6.
This website does not give legal or other advice. Always see a lawyer.