Fiorentino, D. (2015). In defense of standardized field sobriety tests: Part 1, a review of their logic and history. Counterpoint, 1(1), 22-30.
Law enforcement officers are sometimes required to administer standardized sobriety tests (SFSTs) to determine whether operators of automobiles or boats have blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) that are illegal (BAC ³ .08 g/dL). Typically, the tests are administered in one of two situations: with probable cause, when operators are examined after the officer has determined that there are enough clues to suspect driving under the influence (DUI); and at sobriety checkpoints, when some operators are systematically stopped from the flow of traffic at predetermined locations. The results of the sobriety tests help the officers formulate the arrest/no arrest decisions, which can then be confirmed with evidentiary breath alcohol tests or blood tests, if possible. Because a DUI or BUI arrest may have significant consequences, including fines, license revocation, and prolonged incarceration, the steps that lead the officer to make the arrest are often challenged on legal and scientific grounds.
This is the first of two articles. The current paper provides some background on the logic and history of sobriety tests. The second paper will attempt to rebut some of the criticisms that have been leveled at the research that support their use.