The finger-to-nose test is a tactic employed by police investigating a suspected DUI / DWI or driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) case. Unfortunately, field sobriety tests such as the finger-to-nose test aren’t anything like the tests we took in school – they are designed to set up the driver for failure. Typically, an officer conducts field sobriety tests to establish probable cause to make an arrest, and to gather evidence to support a drunk driving court case. A driver who took a field sobriety test and is facing a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charge should consult with a California attorney who specializes in DUI / DWI cases.
In the finger-to-nose test, the officer instructs the driver to tip his or her head back with eyes closed and touch the index finger to the nose. The officer will instruct the driver to continue touching the left or right index finger to the nose at random. The officer is looking for the following clues that the driver is intoxicated: An inability to follow instructions, swaying, muscle tightening or tremors, a lack of depth perception, or an inability to touch finger directly to tip of the nose. The officer also will make a note of any statements made by the driver during the test.
The finger-to-nose test is not a standardized field sobriety test recognized by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Because the NHTSA does not endorse the finger-to-nose test as a reliable indicator of mental and physical impairment, it holds less weight in court than a standardized test.
Obviously, the finger-to-nose test isn’t given under the best of conditions – it usually takes place by the side of a busy street or freeway, with cars whizzing past. The driver is usually extremely nervous after being ordered from his or her car. And the officer’s interpretation of the driver’s performance during this “test” is extremely subjective. Sometimes police don’t even conduct the test properly.
A skilled attorney will challenge the officer’s recollection of a driver’s performance in a field sobriety test and show that the results could just as easily indicate that the driver wasn’t impaired. The best way to challenge the results of the finger-to-nose test in a California Driving Under the Influence case is to consult with a criminal defense lawyer experienced in fighting drunk driving cases.