A driver under investigation for DUI / DWI is typically asked to take a field sobriety test such as counting numbers backward. Although the driver may think the test helps the officer decide whether to make an arrest, the truth is that the officer likely makes that decision long before the test begins. The best way to defend against field sobriety tests in a California DUI / DWI case is to consult with an attorney with experience fighting drunk driving cases.
Being forced from a car on a busy freeway or street is nerve-wracking, and anyone can make a mistake. These roadside exercises shouldn’t even be called tests – they are designed for failure, and the odds are stacked against the driver. The test serves only to create probable cause to arrest the motorist for drinking and driving and to gather evidence for use in a criminal court case.
During the numbers backward test, the officer directs the driver to wait until he or she finishes the instructions, then to count from one to 10, then back down to one. Sometimes the driver may be instructed to begin at 100 or 1000 and required to count down until told to stop.
Like other field sobriety tests, counting numbers backward is a divided attention test, meaning it’s designed to distract the driver between two tasks. During the test, the officer watches the driver for signs of driving while intoxicated, including an inability to follow instructions, an inability to count, swaying or other balance problems, or starting or stopping the test too early.
However, there are many reasons why a driver may perform poorly on this test, including nervousness or fatigue. Sometimes the officer doesn’t administer the test correctly or do a good job of explaining the instructions. Also, the numbers backward test is extremely subjective, meaning the results can be interpreted in more than one way. An experienced DUI / DWI lawyer can successfully challenge the results of a field sobriety test.
The test is such a poor indicator of physical and mental impairment from alcohol that it isn’t even recognized as a standardized test by the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHSTA). Because the test isn’t recognized by the NHSTA, it carries less weight in a court case than standardized field sobriety tests.
The bottom line is that counting backward and other field sobriety tests can be successfully challenged in court. The best way to fight a California DUI / DWI case is to consult with a drunk driving attorney who specializes in defending charges of drinking and driving.