Criminal Defense in Orange County

What if the Arresting Officer Claims My Speech Was Slurred?

In many DUI cases, the state's case relies on the testimony of the arresting officer as to your symptoms of inebriation during your arrest. Skilled criminal defense attorneys will be able to effectively challenge the officer's testimony as to each one of your symptoms during cross-examination. Consider one of the better-known symptoms of inebriation: slurred speech.

If the officer claims that your speech was slurred, the jury may be persuaded because of how familiar they are with that symptom. The officer is extremely unlikely to recant his statement and admit you were speaking normally during cross-examination, so your lawyer must employ a more indirect approach. One such approach would be to ask the officer about all of the questions you answered.

When using this tactic, your attorney will ask the officer to recount your answers or at least verify that he understood them. They will emphasize the amount of information that you verbally conveyed to the officer. Then, in his closing argument, your Orange County criminal defense lawyer may argue that if your speech was truly slurred, the officer would not have been able to understand all of your answers well enough to have answered so many questions about them during cross examination.

What Scientific Research Says About Slurred Speech

Slurred speech is considered to be a sign of impairment; however, research has shown that classifying an individual's speech as slurred may be more subjective than expected. For example, in a study that looked at the ability to use speech as a way of establishing one's level of alcohol intoxication, a variety of light, moderate, and heavy drinkers were asked to talk at three different times:

  1. During a learning phase
  2. When totally sober
  3. While at four different BAC levels

The participants showed considerable changes in speech as their alcohol levels increased; however, the researchers warned that these speech patterns could not be taken as "universal," since there were a few subjects who did not show any change whatsoever. In another study, researchers made audio recordings of male speakers saying sentences while in both a sober and intoxicated state. From those recordings, two types of experiments were created. The first asked participants to listen to a matched pair of sentences and choose which sentence was said while the speaker was intoxicated.

The second experiment asked state troopers and college students to judge whether individual sentences were produced by a sober or an intoxicated speaker. The findings from these studies were that there were distinct changes in speech articulation between sober and intoxicated conditions; however, not all researchers agree that slurred speech or changes in the characteristics of a person's speech are sufficient evidence of intoxication, particularly at low levels.

Voice recording analyses have often been done, particularly after major accidents, such as the Exxon Valdez incident. A researcher analyzed recordings that were made by the captain of the Exxon Valdez and recorded at various points right around the time of the accident. An acoustic-phonetic analysis of the captain's speech that was recorded prior to, during, and after the accident showed a variety of changes in his speech. Nevertheless, researchers warn of the limitations in making inferences with respect to the state of the speaker based upon phonetic data.

If you need an Orange County criminal attorney, please call The Law Office of Barney B. Gibbs for a free consultation. We are available to discuss your case 24/7!