The Floating "Field Sobriety" Gymnastics Used in Boating While Intoxicated Cases, Continued

Hello. Tonight I will post some of the instructions and "possible indicators of impairment" as set forth in the Boating While Intoxicated manual used during law enforcement training. As you read this ask yourself whether a simple video camera (or almost ANYTHING else) might be a better indicator of whether a driver's ability to operate a boat is impaired by alcohol.

The first test I will discuss is the "Finger to Nose Test", an old law enforcement favorite.

The entire instructions, introduction, test considerations and "possible indicators of intoxication" fit neatly into one half of a page of the manual (p. 7-E-11). Here they are:


"Introduction to the Finger to Nose Test: This will test for the ability maintain balance, coordinate movement, and follow simple directions." (grammatical errors in original text).

"Test Considerations: The subject must be seated to administer this test."

NOTE: Noticeably absent from the "test considerations" are the water and weather conditions. Choppy water and high winds are irrelevant when "scoring" this "test". The only "consideration" made by the cobblers of this battery of test is that the driver is "seated".

"Instructions for the test: The standard instructions for the Finger to Nose Test are:

* Have subject seated.
* Place your hands down by your sides, extend your index fingers out.
* On my command, touch the tip of your nose with the tip of your index finger and return it to your side like this. Demonstrate.
* Do you understand?
* Tilt your head back slightly and close your eyes. Keep your eyes closed during the test.
* Do you understand?
* Right, left, right, left, left, left, right.
* Open your eyes."

These are the instructions for this seated "test". There is no objective scoring system. Most importantly, can you find a logical relationship between the ability to do things with your eyes closed and your head tilted back and whether your ability to drive a boat has been impaired by alcohol? Hopefully there are no boaters driving on our lakes with their eyes closed and/or their heads tilted back. What does the ability or inability to perform these tasks exactly the way they are directed have to do with the ability to drive a boat? Not much and there are no standarized, validated studies that prove otherwise.

Now, on to "scoring" the "test":

"Possible indicators of intoxication: Below is a list of possible indicators of intoxication.

* Missed Nose.
* Searching pattern.
* Opened eyes.
* Not using proper finger.
* Hesitation."

There is no point scoring system, grading scale, or scorecard for this subjective exercise. It is entirely up to the officer on a lake or pond whether to arrest some one after this ritual.

This is but one of the 6 part "floating battery" of tests performed on citizens unfortunate enough to be stopped for "random", "routine" or "safety" stops.

In my next post I will examine one of the "hand-jive" style tests that are performed during "boating while intoxicated" arrests.

Have a safe night,

Mark Stevens




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