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The Arresting Officer

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Finally, the psychologists proceeded to test 30 law enforcement officers from various New Jersey agencies. Of these, 15 were tested under conditions similar to those in the first experiment; another 15 were tested under conditions commonly encountered in a DUI traffic stop — at night, with the subject behind the wheel of a car, who is then asked to step out and conduct a series of field sobriety tests. The results: "When police observers in the laboratory condition were compared to social drinkers who had experienced an identical procedure, no difference in rating accuracy was found... Officers in the arrest analogue condition were somewhat more accurate than their colleagues in the laboratory condition but not significantly so." Id. at 1076.

The scientists then concluded that "the results of the three experiments described here are not reassuring. All three of the subject groups studied — social drinkers, bartenders, and police officers — correctly judged targets' levels of intoxication only 25 percent of the time.” Ibid.

In cross-examination of the police officer, as in all phases of trial, preparation represents the key to success. Besides learning the background and training of the officer; counsel should obtain all reports, statements, and transcripts relevant to the case, particularly if they involve the officer in question. California DWI attorneys should visit the scene of the arrest and determine the lighting conditions at the time, and he should note the distances involved, location of obstructions, etc. This not only permits more effective on-your-feet cross-examination but enhances counsel's own credibility in the eyes of the jury.

Counsel should try to interview the officer in advance of trial. If depositions are permitted, one should be taken; if not, informal questioning may he a possibility if handled tactfully. (But see § 13.0.1.)