Dear PA DUI Attorney: Roadside DUI Tests

Should I Perform the Roadside DUI Tests?

Dear PA DUI Attorney,
A friend of mine was pulled over for a DUI in Shippensburg, Cumberland County PA and asked to do the roadside tests like standing on one leg, walking a straight line and following the officer’s finger with his eyes.  Every day of the week, he is a total clutz. This time he fell over while trying to stand on one leg and they charged him with a DUI even though he was not drunk.  What should he do?

Under Pennsylvania DUI Law You are not Required to Perform the SFSTs
Under Pennsylvania DUI Law You are not Required to Perform the SFSTs

The first  thing I would like to point out is that no one should ever perform these tests called the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs).  Here are some reasons why:

  1. The SFSTs are entirely voluntary under Pennsylvania DUI Law and there is no negative effect or penalties for refusing these tests. they are voluntary. It is your absolute right not to do them.  In fact, the prosecution cannot enter your legal decision not to volunteer to do them as evidence against you.
  2. The DUI roadside tests are designed for failure. You will be asked to perform unfamiliar tasks (When was the last time you stood on one leg for 30 seconds or walked literally heel to toe on the the roadside with traffic whizzing by) in an extremely high pressure situation.  In the case of your clumsy friend and of many other DUI clients we have represented, the pressure of having being accused of a DUI in combination with having an officer watch you try to do these unnatural acts causes people to lose their balance and perform poorly. The person performing the test is not told what the scoring criteria is before they begin. The police at the roadside frequently only give the complicated instructions of the tests one time and one time only.
  3. The results of these DUI tests are subjective. No matter how a person performs on these tests, it is up to the investigating officer to interpret whether or not to arrest and charge the driver with a Pennsylvania DUI.  We have seen many officers in PA take a “better safe than sorry” approach to DUI cases and arrest drivers who performed well on these tests based on the premise that they “might be intoxicated.”
  4. These DUI agility tests are not scientifically valid. In fact, Pennsylvania courts regularly preclude the results of the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) because there is not enough evidence to substantiate that it is widely accepted in the scientific community.  The claims behind the design of these tested have not been peer reviewed.  In fact there is a great number of scholarly research that points to the invalidity of these tests and the extremely high rate of false positives when in these cases, such as your clumsy friend, they assume that everyone can preform these tests to the officer’s satisfaction and the only reason that someone cannot is because they are drunk. We all know that is not so.

So the question is:

Why would you perform a test that is not accurate and produces a high number of false DUI arrests when you don’t have to?

As far as your friend goes, he should consult with a qualified DUI attorney who is certified in field sobriety assessment.  All of the PA DUI attorneys at The McShane Firm are trained:

  • in every level of NHTSA certification in terms of police screening tests: Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (practitioner and Instructor), Drugs that Impairs Drivers, ARIDE and Drug Recognition Expert.
  • Forensic Sobriety Assessment which is the most advanced certification available to DUI professionals in behavioral sobriety assessment

We can investigate the facts of his case and chart out an effective strategy for his defense.

Justin McShane

PA DUI attorney Justin J. McShane is the President/CEO of The McShane Firm, LLC - Pennsylvania's top criminal law and DUI law firm. He is the highest rated DUI attorney in PA as rated by Justin McShane is a double Board certified attorney. He is the first and so far the only Pennsylvania attorney to achieve American Bar Association recognized board certification in DUI defense from the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. He is also a Board Certified Criminal Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Approved Agency.

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