San Diego DUI Law Center

San Diego DUI criminal lawyers and San Diego drunk driving defense attorneys report there often is a Lack of Reasonable Support for San Diego California DUI Officer’s Detection of “Objective” Symptoms

San Diego California DUI attorney prosecutors & California DMV seem to believe so-called “objective” symptoms of odor of alcohol, slurred speech and red/bloodshot/glassy eyes are “objective.”

Such a misfounded, subjective belief may not be reality. San Diego California DUI lawyers may fairly show one’s claim of objectivity can be subjective.

Odor of Alcohol Unidentifiable & Unrelated to San Diego DUI BAC result

The odor of alcohol on a driver’s breath is usually the first clue a San Diego California DUI officer relies upon to:

• Initially believe that a driver has been drinking alcohol.
• Provide a reason to begin a San Diego California DUI/Drunk Driving/DWI investigation.

In a study on the ability to detect alcohol use by odors, 20 experienced DUI officers were asked to detect an alcohol odor from 14 subjects (BAC range 0-0.13%). Subjects were hidden behind a screen and asked to blow through a 6-inch tube, with the police officer’s nose at the end of the tube. DUI officers were unable to identify the beverage type (e.g. beer, wine, bourbon or vodka) and odor strength estimates were unrelated to BAC levels. [Moskowitz H, Burns M, Ferguson S., Police Officers’ Detection of Breath Odors From Alcohol Ingestion. Accid Anal Prev. 1999 May;31(3):175-180, p.175.]

Characterization by a San Diego DUI officer of Slurred Speech is often Subjective

The belief that slurred speech may be an indication of impairment is not new. However, research indicates that the characterization of an individual’s speech as slurred may be more subjective than anticipated.

In a study of the ability of speech to determine degree of alcohol intoxication subjects (light, moderate and heavy drinkers) were asked to speak at three different times: during a learning phase, when sober, and at four BAC levels (3 ascending curve and one descending). Subjects exhibited significant changes in speech as the alcohol level increased. However, the authors warn that these speech patterns “cannot be viewed as universal since a few subjects (about 20%) exhibited no (or negative) changzzes.” [Hollien, H., DeJong, G., Martin, C.A., Schwartz, R., Liljegre, N. K., Effects of Ethanol Intoxication on Speech Suprasegmentals. J Acoust Soc Am. 2001 Dec; 110(6):3198-3206, p. 3198.]

The effect of simulated sober or intoxicated speech was also evaluated, to determine if listeners could determine which utterances were made in the intoxicated condition. Actors were asked to produce several types of controlled utterances at various simulated alcohol levels, during actual alcohol intoxication, and attempting to sound sober when at the highest actual BAC level. Listeners rated the actors as being more intoxicated when the actors were sober but simulating drunkenness (88% more often than when they actually were intoxicated). In a second study, the actors were judged as sounding less inebriated than reality 61% of the time. [Hollien, H., DeJong, G., Martin, C.A., Production of Intoxication States by Actors: Perception by Lay Listeners, J. Forensic Sci. 1998 Nov; 43(6):1153-1162, p.1153.]

In a related paper, researches attempted to determine what speech characteristic lead to the misidentifications in the 1998 study. Four paralinguistic factors were evaluated: fundamental frequency (F0), speaking rate, vocal intensity, and non-fluency level. Non-fluencies were found to be the most significant characteristic of speech. [Hollien H, Liljegren K, Martin CA, DeJong G. Production of Intoxication States by Actors—Acoustic and Temporal Characteristics. J Forensic Sci. 2001 Jan;46(1):68-73.]

For another study the testers made audio recordings of male talkers uttering sentences under a sober condition and an intoxicated condition. Two types of experiments were made: (1) listeners were asked to listen to a matched pair of sentences, and to identify which sentence was uttered while the speaker was intoxicated, and (2) Indiana State Troopers and college undergraduates were asked to judge whether individual sentences were produced by a sober or an intoxicated speaker. The authors found that there were definite changes in speech articulation between sober and intoxicated conditions. [Pisoni DB, Martin CS Effects of alcohol on the acoustic-phonetic properties of speech: perceptual and acoustic analyses. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1989 Aug;13(4):577-87.]

Not all researches agree that slurred speech or changes in speech characteristics are evidence of intoxication, especially at low levels. Eleven subjects were asked to read a text in both sober and alcohol intoxicated conditions. By means of statistical analysis, various speech parameters were evaluated. The authors concluded that, on the basis of the results, “application of acoustic analysis in forensic medicine for recognition of low-level alcohol intoxication is considered inexpedient.” [Klingholz, F., Penning, R., Liebhardt, E., Recognition of Low-Level Alcohol Intoxication From Speech Signal, J Acoust Soc Am. 1988 Sep;84(3):929-35.]

Another researcher analyzed recordings made by Captain Hazelwood, the captain of the Exxon Valdez, recorded at several points around the time of the accident at Prince William Sound, Alaska. Acoustic-phonetic analysis of the captain’s speech recorded before, during and after the accident revealed a number of changes in speech. However, the authors warn of the limitations in making inferences concerning the state of the speaker upon the basis of phonetic data. [Johnson K, Pisoni DB, Bernacki RH., Do Voice Recordings Reveal Whether a Person is Intoxicated? A Case Study, Phonetica. 1990; 47(3-4):215-237.]

Red/Watery Eyes claimed by San Diego DUI officer often Caused by Many Non-alcohol Factors

Red/watery/glassy eyes are consistent with either intoxication or sobriety.

This purported San Diego DUI symptom may manifest with other conditions such as wind irritation, fatigue, eye irritation (e.g. contacts, air quality, etc.) or even emotional state.

There is no correlation of red/watery/glassy eyes with a San Diego DUI BAC because the effects may be present in subjects who are not intoxicated.

San Diego California DUI attorneys fairly break down the subjectivity of each of these purported signs.

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