Vermont v. FarrowAnnotate this Case
Defendant Tisa Farrow was arraigned on charges of driving under the influence (DUI). Before trial, defendant filed a motion in limine seeking to exclude from evidence the arresting officer’s testimony about his observations and opinion regarding defendant’s performance of the “Modified Rhomberg Test” (MRT), as well as the videotape of the event. Defendant had previously declined to perform field sobriety tests. Thereafter, at the officer’s request, defendant began the exercise in question, which involved closing her eyes, leaning her head back, and counting thirty seconds. She stopped five to eight seconds later, indicating that she did not want to do the exercise. Defendant’s written motion stated that the MRT evidence was irrelevant because the exercise was never completed and was thus unreliable, and that even if the evidence was marginally relevant, any probative value it had was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. The issue this case presented for the Vermont Supreme Court's review centered on the admissibility of evidence of defendant’s decision not to complete a field sobriety exercise as requested by a police officer in the context of an answer to a question the Court left open in a prior decision: Under the Vermont Constitution, is a defendant’s refusal or failure to perform voluntary field sobriety exercises admissible if the defendant was not advised at the time of the refusal that evidence of a refusal to perform the exercises may be admissible in court? The Court concluded that the refusal evidence was admissible without regard to whether police advised the individual that a refusal to perform the exercises could be admitted as evidence in court. Because the Court rejected defendant’s argument to the contrary on this point, as well as her arguments that on the record in this case the evidence in question was irrelevant and unduly prejudicial, the Court affirmed.