Alcohol and Fitness for Interview

It is generally accepted that severe alcohol intoxication renders a suspect unfit to be interviewed. However, there is much less agreement when it comes to deciding when somebody with mild or moderate intoxication should be considered fit to interview (62,65). The customary view that intellectual processes are impaired at lower blood alcohol levels than sensory or motor pro cesses has been challenged. Indeed, the opposite has been shown, with intellectual processes being more resistant to alcohol than sensory and motor skills

(66). Nonetheless, the effect alcohol can have on short-term memory should be remembered when advising the police on fitness. Research suggests that moderate quantities of alcohol impair the process of forming new memories

(67). Deterioration in performance of a task assessing short-term memory occurred at blood alcohol levels of 70 mg/100 mL in one study (68), and a significant impairment of eyewitness memory has been demonstrated at average blood alcohol levels of 100 mg/100 mL (69). When suspects mistrust their own memory of events, they are at increased risk of providing coerced-inter-nalized false confessions (52).

The ultimate decision regarding whether a suspect who has been drinking is fit for interview is best decided on the medical and functional assessment performed by the doctor rather than on arbitrarily defined "safe" blood alcohol levels (70).

Alcohol withdrawal states and the complications of alcohol withdrawal can impair cognitive functioning and affect a suspect's ability to both cope with interrogative pressure and provide reliable testimony. Even the after effects of alcohol, or "hangover," impair critical task performance, such as aircraft operation, and can impair judgment (71). Research evidence has also suggested that alcohol withdrawal can increase a suspect's suggestibility, although it is not totally clear whether this is a direct result of the alcohol withdrawal or is secondary effect of its treatment (72).

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