How Do Juries View the Results of the Field Sobriety Tests?
Interviewer: Do you think that juries have become a little bit more empathetic to field sobriety tests as a whole?
Aaron Bortel: That’s a tough question to answer. Juries are variable. You can find different types of jurors; we’re getting jurors from every walk of life. Jurors are people and people who have opinions and the way they interact in a room; the way they listen to a case being presented varies from person to person.
I’ll have cases where some jurors are predisposed from the beginning to vote guilty on any DUI. Then others are open-minded and follow the law and will listen to arguments and understand what reasonable doubt means. I don’t think you can say jurors have gotten fed up with or tougher on field sobriety testing.
Jurors Tend to Respond to the Manner in Which Testimony Is Given
A lot of the way that they respond to it has to do with the police officer who’s testifying in the case; a friendly toxicologist who won’t talk about field sobriety testing also, the way that the attorneys address it. I had a case last year where my client did very well with field sobriety tests.
We needed to show that the officer didn’t even understand all the field sobriety tests that he was giving. That he wasn’t properly trained or he had learned to 15, 20 years ago and never recertified and was not giving them correctly.
California Highway Patrol (CHP) Handles Most of the DUI Arrests in the San Francisco Area
All this was pointed out. The jurors were not impressed with the officer. That’s something that happens. Now, most DUI cases in the San Francisco Bay area are CHP arrests on the highways. There are plenty of police department and local police and sheriff arrests, but most of them are done by CHP. CHP is better trained than most of the local officers.
CHP Officers Receive DUI Arrest Training for 70 to 80 Hours in the Academy
There are some local officers who are very well-trained, but most CHP do a better job with field sobriety testing because they’ve spent a lot of training. They train 70 to 80 hours at the Academy on DUI field sobriety testing, investigation, interpretation of tests, procedures, and report writing.
When I receive a case that is a CHP arrest I expect to see a much more thorough police report. Typically I see a California Highway Patrol DUI arrest being tougher to challenge. This is not true all the time, but generally they tend to do a more thorough job because that’s what they’re trained. CHP is trained to treat every driver pull over like a potential DUI arrest.
CHP Officers Are Trained to Treat Every Stop as a Potential DUI Investigation
A number of people don’t know that and are shocked when they hear that, but that’s what they’re trained to do. They treat it like a potential DUI; get their face up to the window as soon as they can in a safe way. If they smell the odor of an alcoholic beverage they start a DUI investigation.
By Aaron Bortel
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