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How Accurate are Field Sobriety Tests?

There are typically three so-called field sobriety tests that Hawaii police officers use when trying to determine if a person is impaired by alcohol.  They were thought up by social scientists pursuant to government grants decades ago.  The science behind them has been examined for years.  There are significant problems.  Besides the fact that many people, completely sober, would fail the tests, the federal government set the bar for employing the tests very low.  The question that was asked was “was a police officer correct in arresting the person?”  The standard for an arrest is probable cause.  That is, would a reasonable person, the officer, believe that the person committed the crime.  It is a fairly low standard.   Not surprisingly, officers who had observed some form of “bad driving”,  had an admission of drinking, smelled alcohol and observed red, watery eyes, had a pretty good idea that the person was impaired anyway.  Still, in more than a quarter of the cases they were wrong.  But, 75% was good enough for the government.  All of this is assuming the officer was trained properly and properly administered and graded the test.  And even if they did, it is a completely subjective test and, even if your friend videotapes you, it is unlikely your friend will be able to see your eyes during the HGN test.  What is especially problematic in Hawaii is that the courts have taken the opinion that if an officer observes you making some sort of mistakes then it essentially means you are impaired.  It takes a lot of preparation, cross examination and  determination to overcome this aspect of Hawaii law.  In sum, they are not very accurate but the Hawaii courts rely on them heavily.

 

The Contributor is Kevin O’Grady esquire. Kevin O’Grady practices in Honolulu, Hawaii, has been in practice since 1997, is a former prosecutor, a member of the National College for DUI Defense, the NACDL, and HACDL and he is a Major in the U.S. Army reserve as a Judge Advocate. His practice is 90% DUI and traffic related. He focuses on DUI, criminal defense, and Courts-Martial. He can be reached at 1-800-DUI-CASE, 808-521-3367, WWW.CriminalAndMilitaryDefenseHawaii.Com, or Paralegal1@CriminalAndMilitaryDefenseHawaii.Com

About Kevin O'Grady

Kevin O'Grady
Kevin O’Grady has a practice that is more than 90% DUI defense. For DUI criminal charges in Hawaii state and federal courts for the four years preceding 2015 97% of his clients do not have a DUI conviction when the case was finally completed. Originally from New York he has been a reserve Maricopa County Deputy, a Deputy Prosecutor for the city of Scottsdale Arizona, a Special Assistant United States Attorney and Chief Prosecutor for the Ak-Chin Indian Community, Special Assistant United States Attorney and Domestic Violence Prosecutor for the Salt-River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, A trial Counsel and Senior Trial Counsel with the United States Army. He is a Major in the United States Army Reserve and a Judge Advocate. He is certified as a JAG to handle all Article 32 Preliminary Hearings including Article 120 (rape and sexual assault) cases. He has handled cases from murder to rape to drugs to assault. He is qualified to administer Standardized Field Sobriety Tests under National Highway Traffic Safety Administration & International Association of Chiefs of Police Guidelines. He is also trained on the Intoxilyzer 8000. He is a member of the Arizona State Bar, the Hawaii State Bar, certified under Article 27(b) to appear in Courts-Martial cases, admitted to the State bars of Arizona and Hawaii, the Federal District Courts of Arizona, Hawaii and the Northern District of Texas, as well as the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is a member of the National College for DUI Defense, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Hawaii Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He is also an Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Law Instructor. Mr. O’Grady lives in Kailua with his wife and two sons.

If you would like to contact the author, please visit: http://wwwcriminalandmilitarydefensehawaii.com


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