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By Land Or By Sea, Field Sobriety Tests Are Making Waves

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Law enforcement officers have the discretion to administer breathalyzer and field sobriety tests if they suspect you've been operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol. Courts continue to debate the admissibility of the field tests, while some argue against releasing field-gathered breath test results to the media.

Field impairment testing is making the news in the following ways:

DUI suspects should have protection prior to court, say Vermonters.

In Vermont, prosecutors don't want the state police to publicly post the results of roadside alcohol breath tests before charged individuals have their day in court. By law, arrests of DUI suspects must be made public, but state attorneys argue that posting the field-gathered breath test results may lead to unfair bias against suspects.

The state police are claiming that they must post the results to remain transparent, especially in DUI cases where a law enforcement officer is charged. But legal experts feel it's only appropriate to publicize breath test results after a court arraignment of a suspect.

Roadside test results are not admissible as DUI evidence in Vermont, but the state's Department of Motor Vehicles has been posting the results online, adding to the confusion. The state's officials continue to wrestle with how to handle the publication of potentially damaging breath test results.

Michigan can't decide on admissibility of field tests.

The Michigan legislature was trying to do the right thing when they revamped their DUI laws to make it easier to arrest and convict people driving while impaired. Unfortunately, the wording of their new field sobriety test laws is making it easier to have these tests thrown out as inadmissible.

The new statute, which went into effect in January of 2015, has caused most judges to declare roadside tests inadmissible except under certain circumstances, while at least one judge is still allowing evidence collected from field sobriety tests to be admitted.

Some defense attorneys are worried that the new law will unfairly target those who take legal prescription medication. As in Vermont, legislators, courts and attorneys in Michigan are struggling to find a compromise.

In every state, field boating tests are ready.

There's no controversy surrounding the new methods that have been developed to catch people boating under the influence of alcohol.

In the past, it was difficult to administer field sobriety tests on rocking boats and rough, lakeside terrain. Officers would often have to transport suspects up to an hour away from the spots where they were picked up, in order to find a proper, flat testing spot.

Now there are tests to check for impairment that don't require the boat operator to be standing up. The tests include the standard eye-tracking and alphabet-reciting portions, but they also require the boat operator to play a sort of patty cake game and to fist bump themselves.

If you've been arrested and charged with a DUI or a BUI (boating under the influence), talk to an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible to find out whether or not your field sobriety test results may be admitted as evidence against you. Each state has different rules, so talk to an expert to understand how they might use these laws to your advantage.