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DUI Attorney in Arizona: The Importance of Strict Scientific Testing

Any DUI attorney in Arizona can tell you about how much the standards for determining drunk driving have changed over the years. Back during the Carter administration, it was common for Georgia state troopers to have motorists blow into their Smokey the Bear hats to guesstimate the drunken intoxication of a driver. While this may sound like an episode of Yogi the Bear, it hardly qualifies as scientifically provable evidence. With such flimsy standards, a DUI attorney in Arizona would have many potential angles to introduce challenge and doubt into the evidence of the prosecution.

There were a wide variety of sobriety tests that existed in the 1970s, and not all of them involved a wide brim hat. Some involved drawing on a sheet of paper. Others involved doing a song and dance and grading for grammar and poise. Around 1975, however, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began scientifically measuring the accuracy of various tests in order to prove which were the most sound at providing reliable evidence. Rather than create more accurate tests, they merely had to determine the accuracy of the tests that were already being used that a DUI attorney in Arizona might regularly run into.

The National Highway Safety Administration (NHSA) awarded a contract to the Southern California Research Institute (SCRI) to determine which field tests were most accurate. The studies were conducted by SCRI director Marcelline Burns, a research psychologist who participated in ride-alongs with police officers all over the United States. Burns compiled a list of 16 tests thought to be feasible as potentially reliable sobriety tests. SCRI selected pilot tests and then began testing their validity with control groups in 1977. Six tests were chosen for the study that would decide the rules for which a DUI attorney in Arizona must operate.

After concluding its study, the SCRI recommended the use of 3 of its 6 tests. These included the walk and turn , the one leg stand, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. Other tests that had been studied included the finger to nose test, the finger count and the tracing test. The Romberg test, the alphabet test and subtraction tests were used interchangeably. These tests could be used to establish evidence at the scene to compile the freshest data related to the crime of the client of a DUI attorney in Arizona.

The testing was done in a laboratory setting over the course of a year. It involved 238 drinking subjects and 10 police officers. Individuals selected for the tests were all licensed drivers familiar with the effects of alcohol. They were instructed not to eat for 4 hours and then given measured doses of alcohol, but were never told how much alcohol they had been given. Their BAC levels were measured and then subjected to the 6 tests listed above. These are the same tests that might be given today to a client of a DUI attorney in Arizona.

Interestingly enough, the testing revealed that the error rate of the officers involved could have an impending significance. It was found that the officers had an error rate of over 47%. The officers made the decision to arrest 101 people, 47 of which had a BAC under .10 %. This leads to the suggestion that a DUI attorney in Arizona can insert a great amount of doubt into evidence based solely on an officer’s testimony. Without a definitive scientific test that measures the individual’s alcohol level, it is nearly impossible to say that the driver was in fact drunk.

About the Author
David Michael Cantor is an AV rated (the highest possible rating) lawyer and a Certified Criminal Law Specialist per the Arizona Board of Legal Specialization. For more information about an Arizona DUI Attorney, visit our site.

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