Trouble with Roadside Sobriety Tests

State law was changed in January to permit a preliminary roadside analysis to find if an individual was possibly under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Before, “roadside sobriety tests” was not defined. However, the law change has had the effect of stopping these tests from being allowed as evidence in court.

The change does not prevent drivers from being pulled over and arrested, but without roadside sobriety tests as evidence, conviction is less likely. The law change was made to assist in building drugged driving cases, but instead has made slam dunk drunk driving cases much harder to prosecute.

The typical field sobriety tests that police use include counting exercises, finger to nose accuracy, and listing the alphabet. At this point, field sobriety tests can be assumed to not be valid in court. However, breath, urine, and blood tests results are still allowed in court and can be collected by search warrant if probable cause exists.

The author of the amended bill, State Representative Dan Lauwers, said the effect is an unintentional technical mistake in the law that will hopefully be corrected by the Michigan Legislature before April. Having the wording of a law be clarified or corrected as needed is not an uncommon occurrence. In the meantime, the new law helps defendants.

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