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Naples, Florida

Lack of police training may mean fewer DUI convictions

On Behalf of | Aug 30, 2017 | Drunk Driving

Florida law enforcement may be experiencing difficulties convicting some drivers of the charge of driving under the influence of alcohol. The cause of the challenge to convictions may be that the officers lack a specific expertise.

A trial court may admit an officer’s observations of a driver’s behaviors when the state is trying to prove a DUI charge. However, there is a more credible scientific test that may constitute stronger evidence. In Florida, the court may suppress that scientific test result if the officer did not have his certification noting proper training in that particular test.

Field sobriety testing applies to all class of people

A recent Naples Daily News report illustrated that DUI arrests are not limited to any particular political, social or economic class. When law enforcement stops a driver after witnessing faulty driving, he or she will perform field sobriety tests on the driver prior to any decisions regarding an arrest for suspected DUI. In Florida, regardless of who the driver is, tests may include the following:

•    Following a light with one’s eyes
•    Standing on one foot
•    Walking a straight line

There are other field sobriety tests that may be requested, depending on the attendant circumstances.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

As further described by the Naples Daily News, one important scientific test used in the area of field sobriety testing is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test. In this test, the officer with a light source observes the eye movements of the driver as he tries to track the moving light. The potential presence of a jerking of the eyes as they attempt to track the light may indicate the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that HGN is a more reliable test than either the one-leg-stand or another popular field sobriety test known as the walk-and-turn test. HGN has a near 90 percent reliability rate. However, because HGN is a scientific test, most Florida judges will not admit its results unless the Institute of Police Technology and Management trained and certified the officer. Less than 1 percent of Florida law enforcement officers have the certification demanded.

The officer must become a certified Drug Recognition Expert to ensure that a trial court will admit his or her HGN test results. This certification is a level of training not offered to all officers. It entails many hours of study, including medical knowledge, and costs over $1,500 per officer.

Sometimes the HGN results are the strongest form of evidence of DUI. This is particularly so if results of a breath or blood test prove to be inadmissible due to a technicality. The shortage of specialized officer training may result in fewer DUI convictions if the defendant driver files the appropriate motion for suppression of HGN test results.