Raleigh Lawyer Completes DWI Training

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Raleigh Criminal Lawyer Damon Chetson recently completed the same 24-hour Driving While Impaired (DWI) course approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for Law Enforcement Officers who conduct DWI investigations. The course includes instruction on how to identify impaired driving, how to properly conduct and arrest, and how to properly conduct the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) that many officers use to determine whether the driver has been driving drunk.

The Chetson Firm - Raleigh Criminal Lawyer and Criminal Attorney

It's important that a DWI defense lawyer know what mistakes to look for when analyzing and defending a DWI case.

Raleigh DWI lawyer Damon Chetson recently completed the 24 hour instructional course approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for law enforcement officers who conduct stops and investigate possible Driving While Impaired (DWI) cases.

The course that Raleigh Lawyer Damon Chetson completed involved both book-learning, pre and post-course evaluations, and hands-on application of the battery of three tests - the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), Walk and Turn (WAT), and One Legged Stand (OLS) - approved and validated by the NHTSA as effective tools in identifying impaired drivers.

The three day course was taught by a certified instructor in SFSTs, and included individualized training in how to perform the SFSTs on a group of people who volunteered to participate in a controlled drinking experiment.

"This is the course that most law enforcement officers - whether they're Raleigh Police officers, Cary officers, State Highway Patrol Troopers, or Sheriffs Deputies - complete as part of their training," Mr. Chetson said. "Even if they don't complete this training, Law Enforcement Officers get some stripped down version of the NHTSA training as part of their North Carolina Basic Law Enforcement Training."

Mr. Chetson was instructed on the latest version of NHTSA standards, including the 2006 student manual which informs officers that if they do not complete the SFSTs strictly in accordance with the manual's instructions, the tests are not valid.

"Having been through this SFST training, it's apparent to me that well-intentioned officers may make crucial mistakes when arresting someone they suspect of having been driving while impaired," Mr. Chetson said. "As a consequence, those arrests may have been done improperly. It's important that a DWI defense lawyer know what mistakes to look for when analyzing and defending a DWI case."

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) were first developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s as part of extensive testing by the Southern California Research Institute on behalf of NHTSA. After reviewing a couple dozen field tests, SCRI identified three - the HGN, WAT, and OLS - that had the highest reliability. SCRI and NHTSA conducted additional field tests.

But, because road conditions and officer training may differ considerably from the lab conditions used to verify these tests, officers may incorrectly perform the tests and incorrectly interpret their results, involving "false" arrests. These arrests may result in criminal charges and, without adequate legal defense, criminal convictions and steep fines.

In North Carolina, a conviction for a DWI will result in at least a year long suspension of a driver's license, a permanent criminal conviction on a person's record, fines, community service, and possibly extensive jail time in the worst cases.


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