As a Fulton County DUI Attorney, I know that there have been many instances where a police officer has exaggerated evidence or seen something that wasn't there in the course of an arrest. Of course, this is not to say that all police officers are dishonest - but every profession has instances of human error that cannot be ignored. In today's post, I'm going to be discussing something I believe many police officers suffer from when dealing with DUI charges: Confirmation Bias.
What is Confirmation Bias?
Confirmation Bias is a type of cognitive bias that involves favoring information that confirms your previously existing beliefs or biases. When a police officer suspects someone of a crime, the officer will tend to look for facts that will prove his or her beliefs.
A practical illustration of confirmation bias can be seen in the following example: A woman is pulled over by the police at almost 4:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. She is wearing an evening gown and is extremely tired. The officer notices these things as he begins to question her, and further sees that she has a restricted license from a previous DUI arrest. The combination of these factors leads to the officer to believe that she is driving under the influence.
This belief intensifies as he questions the woman about her whereabouts and receives a quick and nervous reply. The officer asks her out of the vehicle and has her perform a series of field sobriety tests. Because the officer believes the woman is intoxicated, he unconsciously exaggerates how poor she is performing.
Can Confirmation Biases be controlled?
Everyone is susceptible to the tricky issue that is confirmation bias. But police may be more susceptible than most because they are trained to make assumptions based on the time of day, speed, make and model of the vehicle, how old the suspect is, the manner they were driving, and whether there were passengers when they pull over the car.
Because everyone has biases, the phenomenon that is confirmation bias can be easily explained to a jury. Whenever I conduct a jury trial as a Fulton County DUI Lawyer, I always explain how a police officer can honestly believe a person is guilty of a DUI and still be wrong. The example cited above is a real case where I represented the innocent woman suspected of a DUI. I was able to explain confirmation bias to the jury and show them that the woman was on the last leg of a two hour trip from a work event to her home - she was tired, not under the influence. If you have been charged with a DUI in Fulton County, you may have been the victim of a police officer's confirmation bias. Call today.