Interestingly, NHTSA has recently changed their student and instructor Manuals for DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing. In fact, they changed the manuals dramatically. NHTSA manuals have been revised a total of five times since 1995, with no scientific basis for the changes, deletions, and modifications. Very Strange.
NHTSA student and instructor manuals outline procedures and guidelines that officers must follow to properly administer the SFSTs and assess the suspect’s performance. Six different versions of these manuals have been published since 1995. (The latest version was published in 2013.) These manuals are constantly modified and changed. In some cases, critical information has been deleted without any reference to the reason behind the deletion. This is highly suspect, especially since NHTSA claims that all changes were based on “extensive scientific research,” but did not cite any of that research.
The preface of the 2013 Student Manual states, “[a]s in any educational training program, an instruction manual is considered a ‘living document’ that is subject to updates and changes based on advances in research, technology and science.” NHTSA continues, “[b]ased on this information, any appropriate revisions and modifications and background theory, facts, examination and decision-making methods are made to improve the quality of the instruction as well as the standardization of guidelines for the implementation of the SFST training curriculum.”
NHTSA deleted this very critical language from the 2013 editions:
IT IS NECESSARY TO EMPHASIZE THIS VALIDATION APPLIES ONLY WHEN:
THE TESTS ARE ADMINISTERED IN THE PRESCRIBED, STANDARDIZED MANNER.
THE STANDARDIZED CLUES ARE — USED TO ASSESS THE SUSPECT PERFORMANCE.
THE STANDARDIZED CRITERIA ARE EMPLOYED TO INTERPRET THAT PERFORMANCE.
IF ANY ONE OF THE STANDARDIZED FIELD SOBRIETY TEST ELEMENTS IS CHANGED THE
VALIDITY IS COMPROMISED.
NHTSA offers no concrete reason for this particular change. NHTSA simply claims that it was deleted due to “advances in research, technology and science.” This deleted language is the precise language that defense attorneys use on cross-examination if the cop does not properly administer the tests or properly assess the suspect’s performance. Defense attorneys use this language to attack the credibility and weight of the cop’s testimony.
The acknowledgments mentioned in the 2013 editions thanked numerous individuals for their contributions in updating and revising the SFST curricula. All but one (1) of those thirteen (13) acknowledgments was to cops. The one (1) acknowledgment that was not to a cop was to a person employed by the Institute of Police Technology and Management.
Additionally, there is no reference to indicate that any of these individuals are scientists or that they even have college degrees. Assuming they do have college degrees, there is no indication that they took or passed a science or statistics course.
Read more in this series:
Say No No to the Po Po! (Part 1 of 6)
NHTSA Manuals (Part 2 of 6)
The “Reports” or “Studies” (Part 3 of 6)
What Does It All Mean? (Part 4 of 6)
The Ohio Legislature’s Response (Part 5 of 6)
Conclusion (Part 6 of 6)