Finger Count – DWI / DUI field sobriety test

Police investigating a New York DUI / DWI case often ask a driver to complete a field sobriety test such as the finger-count test. Unfortunately, police don’t use the finger-count test to decide whether to arrest a driver – that decision usually has already been made before the test starts. The test results typically are used to create probable cause to make an arrest, and to obtain evidence for a drunk driving court case. The best way to dispute the results of a field sobriety test in a drinking and driving case is to consult with a New York DUI / DWI attorney with a proven track record of defending drunk driving cases.

In a finger-tap test, the officer directs the driver to extend one hand with the palm facing up, then touch the tip of each finger to the tip of his or her thumb. The driver must count out loud after each touch, forward and backward, for three sets. During the test, the officer is looking for the following signs that the driver is intoxicated: Starting the test too soon, an inability to follow instructions, an inability to count as directed, an inability to touch fingers as instructed, an inability to perform the correct number of sets, and stopping the test before instructed to do so.

The finger-count exercise shouldn’t even be called a test, because unlike the tests given in school, field sobriety tests set drivers up to fail. An experienced drunk driving criminal defense attorney knows that there are many conditions other than alcohol intoxication that would cause a driver to perform poorly on the finger-count test, and will demonstrate that the “signs” exhibited by the driver could just as easily be interpreted to mean the driver was not impaired.

Because the finger-count test isn’t a standardized field sobriety test recognized by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), it carries less weight in court than a standardized test. The “clues” of drunk driving that police look for are extremely subjective, meaning they can be interpreted in a number of ways. Nervousness, fatigue, or illness can cause a driver to “fail” the finger-count test. Certain illnesses or injuries that impair motor skills also can impact a driver’s performance. Sometimes police don’t even conduct the test properly.

Because field sobriety tests are so subjective, they can often be successfully challenged in court. The best way to fight a drinking and driving case where a finger-count test or other field sobriety test was administered is to consult with a New York criminal defense lawyer skilled at defending suspected DUI / DWI drivers.