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On Becoming Certified to Administer the Standardized Field Sobriety Test

Jamison KoehlerDUI and Driving Offenses

There is nothing more gratifying for a criminal defense lawyer than the moment on cross-examination when the prosecution’s key witness begins to sweat.  The witness gets that panicked or confused look in the eye and keeps glancing over at the prosecutor as if for help.  Uh oh, the look says.  This is not going as planned.  Defense counsel knows a little bit more about this than I had expected.

It is particularly gratifying when the witness is a cocky or swaggering police officer.  This may sound disrespectful or mean, but if you have ever been bullied by such a police officer during a traffic stop or arrest, you will know what it is I am talking about. You will forgive me my glee at the witness’ discomfort.

My favorite instance was the officer who himself kept objecting to my questions.  Or another officer who told me I was asking him the wrong questions.  Apparently, they weren’t the questions he was expecting.

I am currently in Houston with the hope of honing my ability to make witnesses uncomfortable during cross-examination in a DWI, DUI, or OWI case. Specifically, I am here to become certified in administering the standardized field sobriety test, which, as I have discussed elsewhere, is the battery of tests approved by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration for detecting drivers impaired by drugs or alcohol. It includes the one-leg stand, the walk-and-turn, and the infamous horizontal gaze nystagmus test. At the very least, I am hoping to level the playing field.

I will be posting more about this training over the next couple of days.