FINGER-TO-NOSE TEST

Police investigating DUI / DWI cases in Texas often use the finger-to-nose test or another field sobriety test prior to making an arrest. Unfortunately, field sobriety test shouldn’t be called tests at all, because they’re designed for failure. They exist only to establish probable cause and generate ammunition for a drunk driving court case. However, the results of the finger-to-nose test and other field sobriety tests can be aggressively challenged by a Texas attorney who focuses on DUI / DWI defense.

In fact, the finger-to-nose test is so unreliable an indicator of the impairment caused by alcohol impairment that it’s not even standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Because the NHTSA doesn’t recognize the finger-to-nose test, it carries less evidentiary weight in court than a standardized test.

Police conducting the finger-to-nose test instruct a driver to place his or her index finger on the nose with eyes closed and head tilted back. The driver is directed to touch the left or right index finger to the nose at random. While the driver is performing the test, the officer will watch for the following clues that the driver is intoxicated: swaying, muscle tightening or tremors; poor depth perception; an inability to follow instructions; or an inability to touch the finger directly to tip of the nose. The officer will also record any statements made by the driver during the test.

Obviously, the finger-to-nose test isn’t administered under the best of circumstances – the driver is typically nervous after being forced out of the car. The test is usually given alongside a busy street or freeway, with cars whizzing past. And there is no objective scoring system – whether the driver “passes” or “fails” is based entirely on the officer’s opinion. Some officers don’t even conduct the test correctly.

Many drivers suffer from physical conditions unrelated to alcohol consumption that can result in a poor performance on the test. Injury, illness, motor-skill disorders, or even nervousness can affect the outcome. Police officers rarely take these kinds of problems into consideration when conducting the finger-to-nose exercise or other field sobriety exercises.

Most of the time, police don’t even tell the driver that the finger-to-nose test and other field sobriety tests are entirely optional. Unlike the chemical test that is required by law after a Texas drunk driving arrest, field sobriety tests are voluntary, but most drivers are not told that they have a choice.

Fortunately, the evidence used in driving while intoxicated prosecutions, including the finger-to-nose test, can be effectively challenged. A Texas defense lawyer skilled in fighting drunk driving cases will use a proven defense strategy to attack field sobriety test evidence and create reasonable doubt in the accused driver’s guilt.