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DWI: ‘Auditioning’ for Your Freedom: Combating The Use of Field Sobriety Exercises in The DUI Prosecution

By Robert s. Reiff

Read more DWI columns.

The Origins of Physical Sobriety Exercises

Physical sobriety exercises have their origin in neurological testing performed to determine if a patient suffered head trauma. While consuming alcoholic beverages will not cause a client head trauma unless the client proceeds to bang her head against a wall, it may affect her ability to behave “normally” under the law. What is so unique about sobriety exercises is that the police use them to gauge whether a DUI suspect is possessed of “normal faculties” based upon the suspect’s performance of what are truly “abnormal” tasks.

If someone were walking down the street in a heel-to-toe manner, more likely than not passersby would conclude that the person was strange. Still, this highly unusual manner of walking is the standard by which the police adjudge whether a client is driving under the influence of alcohol in order to make an arrest (i.e., whether she has her mental and physical faculties intact).

The defense attorney may even ask

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