Reviewing the Reasons and Procedures for DWI-related Field Sobriety Testing

Understanding the processes and steps that take place during a drunk driving traffic stop can sometimes serve to prepare certain people who may find themselves in similar situations in the future. When it comes to a DWI arrest, not to mention a possible future conviction, understanding the order of things can help in putting the entire drunken driving arrest, prosecution and conviction process in perspective.

Of course, no one ever wants to be stopped and arrested by a municipal police officer or state trooper for driving under the influence of alcohol, but the possibility does indeed exist. And, as no reasonable person would welcome the scenario where he or she is slapped with extensive monetary penalties following a drunk driving conviction, one would have to believe that avoiding such an incident would be all the more preferable to being convicted of DWI and having that mark on one’s record for years to come.

Still, there always exists the chance for a drunk driving arrest, especially if one has had a drink or two before getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. This possibility is real and exists for any driver who may have even a little bit of alcohol prior to being stopped for some other traffic offense, such as running a red light or making an illegal turn. DWI arrests can precipitate from some of the most innocuous traffic offenses.

As a New Jersey drunken driving defense attorneys, I and my staff of experienced legal professionals feel that knowledge is power especially where the law is concerned. A DWI arrest or traffic summons is just the start of a longer process. Whether the cause of the arrest is excessive alcohol consumption, an adverse reaction to doctor-prescribed medication, or use of an illicit drug (such as marijuana), being stopped by a law enforcement officer can spell the end of a clean driving record. And, being taken into custody for DWI or drug DUI can mark the start of a lengthy and potentially costly episode in one’s life.

Leading up to an official charge of drunk driving, a motorist may not have even be suspected of it in the first place. But, because many patrolmen are trained to detect drunken behavior, an officer may already suspect that a driver is operating his or her vehicle while impaired. Stopping the motorist for a simple yet justifiable traffic infraction is the opening gambit in a game that can mean a full-blown drunk driving or drug DUI arrest.

Field sobriety tests, key tools used by police and other law enforcement agencies, can help to determine possible inebriation on a driver’s part. Failure of a motorist to successfully pass one or more of these sobriety tests can serve as one of many pieces of key evidence needed by local prosecutors to prove that a driver was impaired by beer, wine, hard liquor or drugs at the time of his or her arrest.

There are several standard tests that police can use to confirm their suspicion that a driver is intoxicated. These can be administered on the roadside following a traffic stop or in a location where drivers are being checked for drunkenness, such as a sobriety checkpoint or roadblock. They include:

1) Walk-and-turn test 2) Single-leg stand test 3) Horizontal gaze nystagmus test
Using the results form these common sobriety tests, an officer can also use observations of a driver’s state of dress, physical attitude, or mental state to provide additional evidence of drunkenness for the prosecution’s case. Important to remember overall is that any and all of this information gathered during the initial traffic stop and arrest can and probably will be used against the defendant in court.

Evidence ranging from the seemingly minor to the technically specific (such as breathalyzer test results) can be brought up in court by the prosecuting attorney in an effort to win a DWI or drug DUI conviction against a motorist. Even the way a driver exits his vehicle can or may be used by the prosecutor during the trial.