LawOfficer.com Editor s Note: Drunk drivers continue to kill almost as many civilians and on-duty cops as firearms. It definitely is in our best interest to make the best effort possible in taking these guys off the road. Just in time for the holidays, our Cruiser Corner columnist, JP Molnar, gives you some hot tips. A former state trooper, JP has arrested more than his share of DUIs and his advice is right on the money.
-Dale Stockton, Editor in Chief
1. Do everything the same way every time you administer Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) protocols, even if the subject is clearly impaired. Obviously, if the subject is combative, or too impaired to walk or balance, you may have to forgo some evaluations for safety reasons, but make sure the process is always the same to the extent possible. It maintains consistency for the courtroom later on.
2. Do not conduct SFST protocols between your vehicle and the violator's. Move to a sidewalk or other level surface with consistent footing away from that danger zone. If you have no sidewalk or limited roadway, and the violator is the only occupant, conduct the testing ahead of the violators vehicle with you facing approaching traffic. The violator's vehicle and your patrol car behind it will provide a safety barrier for both of you.
3. If possible, always use a real line for the 9-step walk and turn. Parking lots have painted straight lines for stalls, and roadsides have painted white fog lines. Whatever you find, it's much better to have a real line for better SFST evaluations and for court purposes. You can even photograph it to show the judge.
4. Turn off all forward facing strobes, LED flashers, etc., before conducting SFST protocols.
5. Get another officer, if possible, prior to starting SFST protocols. It's safer for officers, and your partner can do the inventory and tow if you have to head to jail.
6. Record the stop and SFST protocols. If you have an in-car video, great. If you don't, then ensure you use a digital recorder that fits in your pocket. I velcroed a digitial recorder to my vest carrier just below my neck line for clear and easy recordings. Sometimes, SFST protocols are out of the visual and audio range of camera systems since you aren't directly in front of your patrol car, so having a digital recorder provides evidentiary value and makes it much easier to write your report.