Finger Dexterity Field Sobriety Test Explained

By Garth O'Brien | January 14, 2010 
Filed Under Washington DUI

Some law enforcement agencies in Washington State utilize the Finger Dexterity field sobriety test during a DUI investigation. The Finger Dexterity test is not recognized as a Standard Field Sobriety Test by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and in my experience this sobriety test is complete garbage. I have administered this test on countless individuals that have consumed zero intoxicants and they have all failed.

This is how the Finger Dexterity test is conducted:

  1. The suspect must select which hand they will use for the test;
  2. The suspect is instructed to touch the thumb of the selected hand and touch each finger tip starting with the index finger and moving toward the pinky finger;
  3. The suspect must count out loud each time their thumb touches a finger (i.e. “1, 2, 3, 4”);
  4. As soon as the suspect touches the pinky and counts out loud the number 4 the suspect must immediately execute the test in reverse;
  5. The suspect’s thumb must touch the pinky finger tip a second time and work backward to the index finger;
  6. The suspect must count backward, “4, 3, 2, 1”;
  7. The suspect must perform this routine 3 times.

Sounds like a piece of cake, but it is not. The police officer wants to see if you do the following:

  1. Cannot count in sequential order properly;
  2. The suspect does not strike the thumb tip with to the tip of the target finger.

The contact area of the thumb tip and the finger tip is very subjective and extraordinarily small. Most people are familiar with the Major League Baseball strike zone for pitchers. Think about trying to hit that strike zone 12 times in a row at a speed higher than 70 m.p.h. That is your chance of “passing” this test in the eyes of a police officer investigating you for DUI.

As a prosecutor, I read police reports where sober suspects failed the Finger Dexterity test. Right now you are probably trying this test in front of your computer, and you are having no issues touching each finger tip and counting out loud. Unfortunately, the officer wants to make an arrest and scrutinizing your performance so rigorously that “missing” the finger tip by a few millimeters will result in a missed finger result.

The field sobriety test are voluntary in Washington State. There are no mandatory penalties if you refuse to participate in these tests (i.e. jail, license suspension or fines). Any experienced Washington DUI attorney would advise you to refuse the field sobriety tests.

If you have been arrested for DUI in the Seattle area please contact us and we will provide you with a free DUI consultation. Our experienced DUI attorneys will strive for the best result possible.

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