The hand pat test is one of several field sobriety tests used by police when investigating a driver for DUI / DWI. Police don’t use the hand pat test to decide whether to arrest a motorist for driving under the influence – that decision likely has already been made before the test begins. It’s used as a tool to establish probable cause for a drinking and driving arrest, and to gather evidence for a DUI court case. The best way to fight a drunk driving case is to consult with a California criminal defense attorney who specializes in DUI / DWI cases.
During the hand pat test, the driver will be directed to extend one hand with the palm up and place the other hand on top, facing palm down. The driver is then instructed to pat the bottom hand with the top hand, while alternating the top hand’s palm position (facing up/facing down between pats). The driver is told to count out loud with each pat. The officer is looking for signs that the driver is impaired, including starting the test too soon, an inability to follow instructions, an inability to count as directed, an inability to pat hand as instructed, and stopping the test before instructed.
Unfortunately, the hand pat test not really a test in the true sense of the word, because it’s designed to be failed. Although police and prosecutors say the test evaluates mental and physical impairment related to alcohol intoxication, that’s not always the case. Experts agree that when it comes to alcohol intoxication, mental impairment always comes before physical impairment. If no mental impairment is present, any physical impairment must come from a source other than alcohol.
A lawyer skilled in defending drunk driving cases can successfully argue that the results of the hand pat test can be attributed to injury, illness, or a nervous-system disorder, and don’t necessarily prove alcohol intoxication. The attorney can challenge the way an officer explained the test procedure, or even argue that it wasn’t administered properly.
The hand pat test is so subjective, meaning that the results can be interpreted in more than one way, that it isn’t even recognized as a standardized field sobriety test by the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHSTA.) The NHSTA has not found these tests to be accurate indicators of whether someone is impaired or under the influence for the purposes of a drunk driving charge.
The bottom line is that field sobriety test results can be interpreted in a number of ways. It’s imperative that anyone subjected to a field sobriety test and arrested for drinking and driving consult with an experienced DUI / DWI criminal defense attorney, who can plan a strategy to effectively fight drunk driving charges.