Understanding ARIDE & Standardized Field Sobriety Tests as a DUI Lawyer

Understanding ARIDE & Standardized Field Sobriety Tests as a DUI Lawyer

Recently I completed ARIDE training to further understand the DUI investigation process. While this knowledge is something that is generally learned through advanced training sessions, hard-fought courtroom battles, DUI Detection and Standardized DUI Investigation training, and roadside sobriety test training, hands-on labs, and virtually any other form of legal education, it always pays to know more than those who simply carry out the training.


Recently I completed ARIDE training to further understand the DUI investigation process.

While this knowledge is something that is generally learned through advanced training sessions, hard fought courtroom battles, DUI Detection & Standardized DUI Investigation training, and roadside sobriety test training, hands on labs, and virtually any other form of legal education, it always pays to know more than those who simply carry out the training.  The course is 2 days and as such hard to fit into a short analysis, so for a thorough and detailed review of ARIDE this link will take you there, but for now, this is only a brief discussion, review, and course overview.

Every commissioned law enforcement officer undergoes Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs), but beyond that there is ARIDE which takes the roadside investigation just a little further.  This “advanced” training is intended to provide the officer additional “tools” of investigation.  This is helpful on the roadside when the officer suspects something just isn’t right, yet, identifying what that problem is problematic without more information.

Like the SFSTs, ARIDE was developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and also, just like the SFST in conjunction with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), and as well as with contribution from the Technical Advisory Panel (TAP).  These are the same agencies that developed and researched the roadside sobriety tests, or Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST).

To be able to attend and participate engage in ARIDE training, you must first be SFST qualified as the SFST program is the bedrock for ARIDE.  While the SFST course is 24 hours and trains officers to assess drivers suspected of being impaired or under the influence of alcohol, ARIDE has the goal of training students to first be aware of signs and symptoms of possible drug impairment, then observe and collect information, test if, permission given by a driver, then identify a category of drug causing the suspected impairment, arrest, and articulate with some specificity probable cause to request a blood draw, and provide an educated guess as to what drug, or alcohol, or both, they believe to causing the “indicators of impairment.”

The ARIDE course is ideally a course that acts as a bridge between the basic and standard SFST course and the Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) program.  While successful completion of ARIDE does not qualify the student to become a DRE (that is a much longer and intense course), the goal of additional roadside enforcement is achieved by providing ARIDE students a general working knowledge of actual and possible drug impairment scenarios.  Interestingly enough, in the practical working world, officer’s will use this training to bolster their credibility and qualifications in any given case, even when the case is NOT drug related. This is another reason why knowing this course (and every DUI detection course that officer’s attend) and the goals it supports is essential to successful Washington DUI defense practice as well as being important in other states, but the value is obvious in an ARIDE State.

It is important to remember that DUI is a general terms and law.  DUI means Driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor AND/OR drugs.  Furthermore, the drugs do not have to be illegal drugs.  In fact, many DUI-Drug prosecutions are based upon prescribed medication.  Not just prescribed medication, but a valid prescription and taking according to doctors orders.  However, taking such medications “properly” does not mean a vehicle should be driven while using the drugs/medication and a valid prescription is not a defense to a DUI-Drug charge.

Let’s Talk About Drugs

For purposes of the legal system and the ARIDE course NHTSA has defined a drug as “any substance, which when taken into the human body, can impair the ability of the person to operate a vehicle safely.”  You should take note, that the “drug” or “substance” does not have to actually be impairing, it just has to have the ability to impair.  As a result a successful DUI-Drugs, defense is best resolved for a jury by expert opinion.  Doe the amount contained in the driver’s blood actually impair such that it actually was impairing, or is it in the therapeutic range and non-impairing range?  What, or how does tolerance for the drug affect its effect on a user?  Expert opinion is the only reliable method here.

To clarify, the consequences of a DUI-Drug conviction are identical as the DUI- alcohol with a breath test over .08 but below .15 penalties.  The mandatory minimum and the person’s prior DUI history, regardless of alcohol or drug based, are required upon conviction.  Currently, there is no drug per se limit in Washington.  This means there is no defining line of an upper limit for purposes of an enhanced DUI-drugs penalty as there is for DUI-Alcohol.  A DUI-Drugs prosecution without a blood test due to a refusal by the suspected driver, does however carry the same refusal consequences as an alcohol based refusal.  Additionally, the officer may obtain a search warrant in the face of a refusal and secure his chemical results anyways.  This method, however, does have its legal draw backs which will be left for discussion another day.

In terms of mandatory punishment, there was a recent change with respect to Interlock devices.  Previously the law was such that it used to be the case that a DUI-Drug conviction did not require an interlock device for any period of time after a DUI-Drug conviction and this used to be a advantage to specific plea bargains.  However, that has now changed and the legislature has saw too it that those who are convicted of DUI-Drugs should also have an IID, despite there being no rational connection to the punishment and crime.

The same goes for the Deferred Prosecution statute; when a person is deemed to suffer from a drug dependency issue, an IID is now required during a period of the program, when it previously was not required because the drug dependency was not connected to an IID.  An IID could not prevent a subsequent DUI-Drug crime from happening as it could with alcohol.   This line of legislative reasoning is identical to that of NHTSA who not only creates course specific for law enforcement with an eye towards finding what they are looking for, but, they also publish statistics indicating that those who drink also are very likely to use drugs, and those that do one or the other are even more likely to mix the substances!  The reliability of these statistics is suspect and as always, focused on the actual prosecution of the crime, rather than, the actual facts. (See ARIDE Manual session 1, page 6)

The ARIDE Course

A thorough review of the course is found within my site.  However, in short the course is a review of the 3 SFSTs previously learned, then a practice session, and then a proficiency exam.  The student has 2 opportunities to properly demonstrate the 3 tests per NHTSA Standards.  The student is graded by a qualified NHTSA instructor and a failure to show proficiency within 2 attempts (if necessary) prohibits the student from continuing on in the ARIDE course.

Once proficiency is shown the student is introduced the bulk of the curriculum and focuses on “Drugs in the Human Body.”  The meat of the course is learning the 7 major drug categories, with a very short review of some medical conditions that could be mistaken for drug impairment. (ARIDE Manual Session IV, page 8-9).  Only 1 page of 98 and 10 minutes of class time of 16 hours, is dedicated to the   discussion of medical conditions that mimic drug impairment. This is an example of dedicated ARIDE is to making a “successful” DUI prosecution.

7 Drug Categories

  1. Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants
  2. Central Nervous System (CNS) Stimulants
  3. Hallucinogens
  4. Dissociative Anesthetics
  5. Narcotic Analgesics
  6. Inhalants
  7. Cannabis

Based upon the training and education provided by ARIDE, the student is able to make an educated gues as to which substance is active in the driver’s system and then taught how to best articulate the case in securing a chemical tests as well as testify convincingly for a jury.- Yes, the course and manual actually dedicates more time and energy to educating students on how to best articulate and describe the case for a jury, then it spend educating students to medical conditions and other forms of “false positives.”

This Roadside Investigation Is Voluntary

ARIDE is a roadside investigation, and just like all roadside requests, except for production of license registration and insurance proof, in the State of Washington, roadside tests, in any combination are voluntary and a driver NEVER has to do them.

The ARIDE investigation and program is contingent upon your cooperation.  The longer you engage the officer and indulge him/her in these roadside gymnastics, and roadside interview, the more likely the opinion that you are in fact, impaired.  Furthermore, should a blood/breath test be requested and you refused, you need to know that a warrant for the blood can be sought based upon the test administration and interpretation of the officer.

As a reminder, the roadside tests in the form of standard SFST, or ARIDE tests, are all a voluntary evaluation and requires your consent.  I never recommend providing this consent.  Withholding such consent to search is a excellent way to defend against a DUI-Drugs prosecution the best defense is to not drive after taking impairing substances.  However, if you find yourself in a situation where you need DUI defense, Jonathan Rands has the training, experience, and dedication to your uncompromised DUI Defense.