The Effect of Confirmation Bias on your DUI Charge

Posted by Richard Lawson | Aug 14, 2019 | 0 Comments

As a Forsyth County DUI Attorney, I have seen many cases where a police officer has exaggerated evidence or seen evidence that wasn't there in the course of a DUI arrest. This is not to say that all police officers are dishonest, of course, but every profession has occurrences of human error that cannot be overlooked. In today's post, I'm going to be addressing something that I think many police officers experience from when dealing with DUI charges: Confirmation Bias. 

Confirmation Bias Defined

A cognitive bias is a mistake in reasoning, evaluating, remembering, or another cognitive process, often occurring as a consequence of holding onto one's preferences and beliefs regardless of contrary information. When a police officer suspects someone of a crime, the officer will tend to look for facts that will prove his or her beliefs. 

Everyone is susceptible to acting on their own confirmation biases. However, the police may be more susceptive than the average layperson because police are trained to make assumptions at the time of arrest based on the time of day, make and model of the vehicle, speed, the manner they were driving, how old the suspect is, and whether there were passengers.

Here is a realistic example of confirmation bias: A woman is pulled over by the police at approximately 4:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. She is wearing a formal gown and appears to be exhausted. The officer notices these things as he begins to question her. He further sees that she has a restricted license from a previous DUI arrest. The combination of the woman's attire, the time of night, how tired she is, and the prior DUI leads to the officer to believe that she has been driving under the influence of alcohol.

The officer receives further evidence in support of this belief when he asks the woman her whereabouts and gets a nervous reply. The officer asks her out of her car and directs her to perform a series of field sobriety tests. Because the officer believes the woman is intoxicated, he unconsciously exaggerates how poor she is performing. 

Practice Note

Because everyone has biases, confirmation bias can be easily demonstrated to a jury. As a Forsyth County DUI Lawyer, I always explain to a jury how a police officer can genuinely think a person is guilty of a DUI and still be mistaken. In the example cited above, I represented the woman. I was able to explain confirmation bias to the jury and show them the truth - she was on her way home from working an event and was tired, not under the influence. If you have been charged with a DUI in Forsyth County, call our office today. You may have unknowingly been the victim of an officer's confirmation bias.

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Richard S. Lawson is passionate about intoxicated driving defense. Unlike some attorneys, Mr. Lawson devotes 100% of his legal practice to helping people stand up for their rights against DUI charges. For more than 20 years, Mr. Lawson has dutifully fought for his clients' freedom, resolving more 4,900 impaired driving cases during the course of his career. Today, Mr. Lawson has developed a reputation as a skilled negotiator and continues to help clients by fighting to keep them out of jail.


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