DWI DETECTION AND STANDARDIZED FIELD SOBRIETY TEST MANUALS
Developing the SFSTs
- The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test;
- The Walk and Turn
- The One Leg Stand Test
- The Finger Count
- The Finger to Nose Test
- A pencil and paper tracing exercise
The first three: HGN, Walk and Turn, and One Leg Stand were deemed to be the most reliable of the tests. In 1983, NHTSA sponsored field test studies to put these three tests in action and assess how accurately they predicted an elevated blood alcohol content in a suspected drunk driver. According to NHTSA, these tests reliably predicted blood alcohol content above 0.10 83% of the time.
In 1995, NHTSA sponsored another study, often referred to as the Colorado study, that supposedly further validated the accuracy and reliability of these tests. In 1997, the so-called Florida Study supposedly validated the SFSTs for reliably predicting blood alcohol content abov 0.08 in response to most of the states lowering the legal limit from 0.10 to 0.08. The accuracy, reliability, and predictability of these studies and the science behind them have been widely criticized in the academic world. Nevertheless, they serve as the linchpin for DUI and DWI enforcement, investigation, and prosecution across the United States.
NHTSA SFST Training
Attorney Morgan E. Leigh has completed this training and received the same certification that the alcohol enforcement officers themselves receive. Because while many DUI defense lawyers do not believe that the studies are scientifically accurate and reliable, its important to learn what the police officers themselves have learned to effectively cross-examine them at trial. In fact, when arrested for DUI and looking for a lawyer, one of the first questions to ask the lawyer is whether they have obtained this NHTSA certification. Many in the DUI defense community view this certification as the basic level of training and education to receive to effectively fight DUI and DWI cases.
Importantly, the NHTSA curriculum manuals reference that the officers must complete the administration of the tests in the standardize manner in which they are instructed. The manuals go on to further state that failure to administer the tests in the standardized manner can compromise the validity of the results. In other words, if the officers do not administer the tests correctly, then the results are not reliable.
NHTSA created the first manual in 1987 and has periodically updated it all the way through 2018. We have provided below downloadable versions of each manual including the manuals created for the instructors of the course. These tools are indispensable resources for any competent DUI and DWI defense lawyer.