ANNE EICKSTADT PHOTO Belvidere Republican
Officer Joe watches as a volunteer of the Citizens Police Academy does the Walk and Turn test used in DUI stops.

By Anne Eickstadt


Officer Joe Danielak taught a group of adults for the first time at the Citizens Police Academy on Wednesday, March 4 Officer Joe Danielak has been with the Belvidere Police Dept. for three years and went through the Belvidere Police Explorer program before that. He now works on the day shift and is an advisor in the Explorer program as well.

“According to 2017 statistics, every day 28 people in the United States die in alcohol related vehicle crashes. Drunk driving crashes claim more than 13,000 lives each year. DUI caused deaths and damages, including property damage, hospital expenses, and funerals, contribute to a cost of over $44 billion per year.

“Of the 1132 traffic deaths among children aged 14 or younger, 209, or 16 percent, involve an alcohol impaired driver.”

“When I first started on the BPD under Chief Jan Noble,” said Deputy Chief Matt Wallace, “the amount of DUI arrests were staggering. There are not nearly as many now. There were no taxis in Belvidere when I started and there are now seven taxis in Belvidere.”

“The best chance of reducing these DUI numbers is education.” Officer Joe said. “Some of the best groups out there are:

MADD – Mothers Against Drunk Driving

SADD – Students Against Destructive Decisions

TADD – Teens Against Drunk Driving

AAIM – Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists

IDDPA – International Drunk Driving Prevention Association

“Three things the Belvidere Police Dept. stresses every year to keep the community safe are Education, Drug Enforcement, and Gang Intervention.”

“Law Enforcement’s ultimate goal is to increase DUI deterrents and decrease alcohol-related crashes, injuries, and deaths. Belvidere has a reputation for stopping cars for any reason from aberrant behavior to seat belt violations to burnt-out license plate lights. We want to deter DUIs and keep the community safe.”

Field sobriety tests are a battery of tests used by police officers to determine if a person suspected of impaired driving is intoxicated with alcohol or drugs. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began research in 1975 on how to test suspects for impaired driving. The NHTSA developed a series of tests that police officers could use when evaluating suspected impaired drivers By 1981, officers in the United States began using the organization’s battery of standardized sobriety tests to help make decisions about whether to arrest suspected impaired drivers. The tests were designed to indicate intoxication associated with a blood alcohol con-centration (BAC) of 0.10 percent. After some US states began lowering their BAC limits to 0.08 percent, a study was done to see if the battery could be used to detect BACs at or above 0.08 percent and above and below 0.04 percent. This was done to deal with the changes in the laws that led to lower legal BAC limits across the US.”

In 1995, scientists in San Diego, Cal. contacted police across the country to find out how they determined if a driver was alcohol impaired. They correlated all the information and started whittling it down to commonalities. Then they started their own tests. Guys in lab coats tested each other, ‘It’s your turn to get drunk,’ to determine the most accurate tests for impairment.

They came up with three phases of DUI detection in the form of the Field Sobriety Tests which are now universally used by law enforcement officers. The tests were refined in Colorado in 1996 and again in Florida in 1998.

“When I am on patrol and come across a possible DUI, I have to rely on my senses and experience to observe the totality of the circumstances.

“1.) Observation of the vehicle in motion. Is there a moving violation, equipment violations, other violations, unusual operation, or anything else that alerts me? Then I have a decision to make: Do I stop the vehicle? I also observe their stopping sequence: Do they stop immediately or take a while? Was there an abrupt weave or attempt to flee? Do they stop in the street, by the curb, over the curb, or in someone’s backyard?

“2.) Personal contact. Interview and observation of the driver – what do I see? What do I hear? What do I smell? Then I have a decision to make: Should I have the driver exit. Then I observe the exit: Do they have trouble standing up? Do they grab for support? Did they just light a cigarette or douse themselves in perfume to mask the odor of alcohol? Are their clothes soiled? Do they have slurred speech?

“3.) Pre-arrest screening: Then comes the three phase Standardized Field Sobriety Testing which are recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These include Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus – involuntary jerkiness in the eyes; the Walk and Turn, and a One Leg Stand.”

The first test that is typically administered is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test. During this test, the officer looks for involuntary jerking of the suspect’s eyes as they gaze toward the side. The officer checks for three clues in each eye, which gives six clues for this test. The clues are: lack of smooth pursuit of the eyes, distinct and sustained nystagmus at the eyes’ maximum deviation and nystagmus starting before the eyes reach 45 degrees.

“The eyes don’t lie. You can’t fake it.”

Vertical nystagmus is also checked for further impairments.

The second test that is administered is the Walk and Turn Test, or WAT Test. This test is a measures the suspect’s ability to maintain their balance, walk in a straight line, and follow directions. To perform the test, the suspect will take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line during which time they must keep their arms to their side and count each step out loud. “I always demonstrate.”

While the suspect performs this test, the officer is attempting to observe if the suspect fails to follow instructions; is having difficulty keeping their balance; stops walking in order to regain their balance; takes an incorrect number of steps; or fails to walk the line heel-to-toe.

“This test requires them to divide their attention. They need to remember their instructions, maintain their balance, and follow the instructions. If they are impaired, they will have difficulty dividing their attention. Driving requires all of us to divide our attention as we watch the road in front, check the road behind, check our side view mirrors, and stay in our lane while the vehicle is moving. If a driver cannot divide their attention there are predictable effects on driving ability.”

Deputy Chief Wallace said, “The strangest DUI stop that I was a part of was when I was working with the Cherry Valley PD. I was working backup for a Winnebago County Deputy. He stopped two guys in a postal vehicle. The kind that has a steering wheel on both sides.

“The Deputy asked, ‘Who’s driving?’ and the men pointed at each other. We tested them both and they both went to jail.”

“The third field test is the One Leg Stand (OLS),” Officer Joe said. “The OLS test requires the suspect to stand on one leg for 30 seconds and also measures balance, coordination, and, similar to the WAT test, divides the suspect’s attention. The officer is looking for any of the four possible clues: Sways while balancing, uses arms for balance, hopping, and puts their foot down.

“I demonstrate with one foot six inches above the ground while I give the instructions,” Officer Danielak said. “If they claim the ground was uneven, I can tell them that I held my foot off the ground for at least 45 seconds while I talked to them.

“When their defense attorney starts asking questions and tries to discount my testimony, I can point to the totality of the circumstances – it wasn’t any one thing that caused me to make the arrest, it was many things that, added together, led me to the conclusion that they were impaired and should not be driving a vehicle.

“The tests are standardized. We always give the same instructions and look for the same clues, which lead us to the same conclusions.

“We can also include non-standardized tests. We can ask them to recite the alphabet from, for example, D to R or count. We can ask them to close their eyes and touch their nose with the end of their finger. Or something else. These tests don’t add or detract points but they do add evidence for the video.”


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