HAND PAT TEST

Police investigating a suspected drunk driver in Fort Bend County and other parts of Texas often use field sobriety test. Most drivers hope that “passing” a field sobriety test will allow them to avoid a drunk driving arrest, but sadly, that’s rarely the case. Police typically make that decision long before the test is administered. These “tests” exist only to create probable cause for a driving while intoxicated arrest and generate evidence for a prosecution. However, field sobriety tests can be successfully challenged by a Texas defense attorney who focuses on driving under the influence cases.

A police officer conducting the hand pat test instructs the driver to extend one hand with the palm up and place the other hand on top, palm down. The driver is then told to pat the bottom hand with the top hand, while alternating the top hand’s palm position up and down between pats. The driver is directed to count out loud with each pat. As the test progresses, the officer will be watching for indications that the driver is intoxicated, including an inability to follow instructions, starting the test too soon, an inability to count as directed, an inability to pat the hands as directed, and ending the test before being told to do so.

The hand pat test shouldn’t even be called a test, because the driver is set up to fail. It’s so inherently unfair that it isn’t even recognized as a standardized field sobriety test by the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA.) The NHTSA does not consider the hand pat test to be a reliable indicator of alcohol impairment for the purposes of a drunk driving charge. The test has no objective scoring system, and relies solely on the officer’s opinion of whether the driver passed or failed.

A lawyer skilled in defending drunk driving cases will argue that a driver’s poor performance on the hand pat test may have been caused by injury, illness, or a nervous-system disorder, and doesn’t prove that the driver was impaired by alcohol. The attorney can challenge the officer’s test instructions, or even argue that it wasn’t administered properly.

The test isn’t given under the best of conditions – police typically conduct the test near a busy freeway or roadway, with cars speeding by and the police car’s spotlight and flashing red lights.

Many accused Fort Bend drunk drivers worry that they’ll be automatically convicted because they “failed” the hand pat test, but that’s simply not the case. Remember that field sobriety test results can be interpreted in a number of ways. An experienced Texas DUI / DWI criminal defense attorney will effectively challenge field sobriety tests as part of a comprehensive strategy to protect the driver’s rights.