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Training officers to spot drunk driving requires volunteers

In addition to having probable cause to make a traffic stop, law enforcement officials are required to have a valid reason for arresting a driver on suspicion of driving under the influence. Before an individual can be taken into custody for drunk driving, the arresting officer needs to make a preliminary determination that he or she is impaired. In an attempt to ensure that its officers are properly trained to make that call, a Pennsylvania county police department recently asked the public for 20 volunteers to help them train its officers — by getting drunk.

Officers must first go through the “field sobriety coordination testing school” in order to receive the certification necessary to conduct these tests during traffic stops. The volunteers will be given alcoholic beverages and will then be given field sobriety tests at different levels of intoxication. Officers are required to meet certain minimum standards in order to pass the course.

Training of Pennsylvania’s law enforcement officers is one of the issues explored when a criminal defense team conducts its investigation into the validity of a client’s DUI charge. Simply having certification to conduct field sobriety tests is not necessarily enough to validate an officer’s contention that an individual was under the influence. The question is whether the officer correctly administered the tests in a real world situation.

Establishing whether probable cause existed for an arrest on a DUI charge is essential, and field sobriety tests are an important part of that determination. Such a charge can affect every aspect of a person’s life, and criminal defense teams not only look at whether the tests were performed in accordance with established procedures, but also whether the officer was properly trained. If testing is not done correctly, a drunk driving charge may not stand.

Source: NBC Philadelphia, “Delaware County Police Search for Volunteers to Get Drunk for DUI School“, David Chang, April 8, 2015

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