The Chikushino Police Department has a program in which driving instructors test the driving skills of volunteers who are under the influence of alcohol. According to a CNN article, testing impaired drivers is part of a drunk driving awareness campaign. In Ohio, we do not use drunk driving exams to determine if drivers are impaired by alcohol or drugs. Instead, we use field sobriety tests and blood/breath/urine tests. Those tests are circumstantial evidence that a person was operating a vehicle under the influence.
During a recent OVI jury trial, the judge and I disagreed about the function of standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs). During a sidebar, I argued the tests do not measure driving impairment; they predict blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The judge’s opinion was SFSTs measure impairment of driving ability. The judge’s opinion prevailed, despite being wrong, because the judge’s opinion always prevails in the judge’s courtroom (unless and until an appellate court says otherwise). This particular judge is intelligent, well-intentioned, and better educated on DUI/OVI issues than most judges and lawyers. If this judge misunderstands the purpose of SFSTs, it’s a topic worth addressing.
This the week of July 4th. For some, that means celebrating our nation’s independence with burgers, beer and boats. As alcohol is often mixed with boating, people are prosecuted and punished for boating under the influence (BUI). But how do law enforcement officers determine if a person’s ability to operate a boat is impaired by alcohol?