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San Diego DUI Lawyer: DUI Cops Lack Expertise

San Diego DUI Attorney claims most DUI police officers lack the ability to determine intoxication

2009 | Nov 23

San Diego, California, Nov. 23 -- A San Diego DUI attorney claims that the ability of most police officers to determine intoxication is little if any better than that of lay citizens – and cites studies to prove it.

San Diego DUI lawyer Lawrence Taylor, author of the legal textbook Drunk Driving Defense, points out that the validity of DUI arrests depends heavily upon the subjective opinions of the arresting officer. His ability to correctly assess DUI symptoms of intoxication -- driving, appearance, behavior, answers to questions, performance on field sobriety tests -- will largely determine what, if any, criminal charges will be filed by the prosecutor. And his testimony at the DUI trial will largely decide the guilt or innocence of the person he arrests.

To determine how accurate the police are, the San Diego DUI attorney says, researchers at Rutgers University’s Alcohol Behavior Research Laboratory conducted a series of experiments.

For purposes of comparison with officers, 49 non-police witnesses were first tested. The lay social drinkers sat in a room as various DUI “suspects” were brought in one at a time for observation and questioning. Each suspect had either consumed varying amounts of alcohol or had consumed nothing; each had been tested for blood-alcohol levels. Each of the 49 witnesses was then asked to judge each suspect’s state of sobriety or intoxication.

Taylor says that a second group of 12 bartenders was similarly tested.

The researchers then turned to 30 experienced DUI officers. Separated into two groups, the first group of 15 officers was tested under laboratory conditions similar to those used with the lay social drinkers. The second group of 15 officers was tested under circumstances commonly encountered in a drunk driving traffic stop at night, with the subject behind the wheel of a car who was then asked to step out and conduct a series of DUI field sobriety tests.

The scientists’ findings, the San Diego DUI lawyer says, were disturbing:

“When police observers in the laboratory conditions were compared to social drinkers who had experienced an identical procedure, no difference in rating accuracy was found. Officers in the arrest scenario were somewhat more accurate than their colleagues in the laboratory condition but not significantly so.”

According to the San Diego DUI attorney, the scientists concluded that “the results of the three experiments described here are not reassuring. All three of the subject groups studied -- social drinkers, bartenders and police officers -- correctly judged targets’ levels of intoxication only 25 percent of the time.” Langenbrucher and Nathan,

“Psychology, Public Policy and the Evidence for Alcohol Intoxication”, American Psychologist 1070.

For more information, visit the law firm’s website at http://sandiego.duicentral.com. Inquiries may be directed to the firm’s San Diego law office: 619.232.5034.

Daniel Stanton

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Lawrence Taylor have an average experience of 18 years; the firm has specialized only in DUI defense since 1979. More information about Mr. Taylor's firm can be found at their homepage, www.duicentral.com.