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The NHTSA's FST Manual

The Field Sobriety Test Manual & DUI Investigations

Published by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Manual aims to train police agencies across the United States in DUI investigation techniques.

In particular, the FST Manual outlines how to explain, administer, judge and score DUI suspects in the three standardized field sobriety tests: The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, the One Leg Stand and the Walk and Turn.

Much like, say, the SATs, the standardization of field sobriety tests in DUI arrests is intended so that officers can conduct the FSTs the same way-and the right way-whether in Los Angeles or New York or rural Tennessee.

That's the idea, anyhow.

In California, we find that very few DUI officers follow NHTSA's guidelines in administering the field sobriety tests. In fact, many DUI officers have never been trained in the NHTSA guidelines and some have never even heard of the NHTSA guidelines.

These DUI officers employ all sorts of arbitrary and improper techniques in administering the FSTs. Many of these officers ask DUI suspects to perform FST exercises in ways that would be impossible even for a completely sober person.

NHTSA says in the DUI Manual that failure to follow its specifications in administering the FSTs renders the results invalid.

As Southern California DUI Attorneys, one of the things we examine in every case is whether the FSTs were given exactly according to the NHTSA guidelines. If not, the results (and the officer's opinion that the suspect was drunk driving) should be given very little weight.

The most recent edition of NHTSA's DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Manual is published here:

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