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Finger Tap or Hand Pat Test

Police investigating a California DUI 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 - the decision is typically made before the test starts. The test results are used only to create probable cause to make an arrest, and to obtain evidence for a DUI criminal case and the California DMV. However, field sobriety test results can be challenged by a California criminal attorney who focuses on defending DUI cases.

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Attorneys for the firm represent clients accused of driving under the influence of alcohol or driving with a blood alcohol level at or above the legal limit in San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin, Alameda, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, Sonoma and Napa counties.

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Police officers administer the finger-tap test by directing 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 motorist is instructed to count out loud after each touch, forward and backward, for three sets. As the test progresses, the officer is looking for the following indications 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 considered a test, because it is designed to be failed. An experienced drunk driving defense attorney can establish that many causes other than alcohol 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.

The finger-count test is not a standardized field sobriety test recognized by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), so it carries less weight in court. The test does not have an objective scoring system, and whether a driver "passes" or "fails" depends solely on the officer's observations. The "clues" of drunk driving that police look for are extremely subjective, meaning they can be interpreted in many ways. Certain illnesses or injuries that impair motor skills can impact a driver's performance. Nervousness, fatigue, or illness also can cause a driver to "fail" the finger-count test. Sometimes police do not even administer the test properly.

Many field sobriety tests, including the finger-count test, are extremely subjective and can often be successfully challenged in court. Because the consequences are so severe, it’s important to have qualified legal representation. An experienced California DUI defense lawyer can develop an aggressive strategy to challenge field sobriety test results at DUI criminal court and the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

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