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Doctor Says Field Sobriety Tests are "Junk Medicine"

Posted by Kevin Trombold DUI Defense Attorney | May 27, 2014 | 0 Comments

Field Sobriety Tests by Seattle Police Department

Perhaps it's occurred to you that trying to perform unorthodox body movements on the side of a street may not be the best indicator of whether an individual is impaired or not. That certainly hasn't stopped law enforcement personnel to rely on these "field sobriety tests" to determine whether to arrest someone on suspicion of DUI.

Another doctor has identified this practice as what it really is: junk medicine.

That's the phrase used by Dr. James Schaller, who has written a new book about the many shortcomings of these types of tests. "Medical Excuse Note for DUI and DWI Driver Testing: Doctor Sobriety Testing Note for Law Officers" lists over 500 different possible causes as to why a driver might fail a field sobriety tests - none of which have to do with alcohol consumption. These even include the nystagmus tests where officers shine a light into a driver's eyes.

Not only does Dr. Schaller's book outline the problems associated with modern field sobriety tests, but it also provides pre-printed forms which can be used as "doctor's notes" regarding these tests. While these forms are not legally binding in Washington or anywhere else, they will at least demonstrate a good-faith effort to show why a particular individual fails a field sobriety test.

The idea is for a person to take one of these forms to his or her doctor or medical practitioner to be filled out and signed. The form specifies why the patient is unable to adequately perform several field sobriety tests, or states that the patient previously "failed" these tests when conducted in a medical setting while the patient was clearly unimpaired. Imagine what a jury might think if they are given evidence that a defendant couldn't even pass a field sobriety test monitored by a physician - when sober! It would sure cast doubt on the efficacy of the test in a given case.

The book is available on Amazon.

And remember, the forms aren't a substitute for speaking with a qualified DUI lawyer.  We can answer any questions you might have about the admissibility of these documents and what effect they might have on your pending DUI.  Please call us at 206-971-0067 for a free consultation.

About the Author

Kevin Trombold DUI Defense Attorney

Highly rated by former clients, who praise his warm, knowledgeable courtside manner and his fierce determination to reduce or eliminate charges. An accomplished speaker, author, and leader in DUI defense statewide Kevin is well respected by judges, prosecutors, and other attorneys across the State of Washington for his expertise, integrity, and knowledge in the complicated forensic science area of impaired driving allegations.


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