DUI Roadside Exercises
What are DUI roadsides?
The first drunk driving arrest recorded was in London in 1897. A taxi driver named George Smith crashed his taxi cab into a building and was found to be intoxicated. Called "driving under the influence" (DUI) or "driving while intoxicated" (DWI) in most states, there are about 1 million drivers arrested for DUI/DWI in the U.S. each year.
Since Colorado DUI laws and every state allows driving after drinking, at least for adults, police officers cannot just arrest any driver they stop who has alcohol odor on their breath. Officers have to engage in some level of investigation to decide which drinking drivers they think may have become impaired from the drinking. For several decades, officers across the country used many different random tasks in order to form opinions about who was ok to drive and who was going to be arrested for DUI. None of it was scientific, and many of the tasks used by officers were unfair to drivers. Some sobriety tasks were ridiculous.
This DUI spoof from Reno 911 shows the dangers of officers making up their own sobriety tests.
1897 Stanley Steamer
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
In the mid 1970s NHTSA initiated efforts to improve the use of DUI roadside tests in the country and make them more standardized (consistent) and more sensitive to the effects of alcohol. What is important for Colorado DUI defense lawyers to learn from this first DUI study published by NHTSA, is that police roadsides came from POLICE. The field sobriety tests were not designed by doctors nor by toxicologists nor by any other scientist- they came from 1960s and 70s cops. Prior to the 1980s, it was not common for police officers to have any education beyond high school or even just a GED. Today's roadside sobriety tests used in Colorado criminal courts came from these minimally educated officers of 45-50 years ago.