A Closer Look at Field Sobriety Tests in New Jersey

drunk driving

While driving laws may vary from state to state, law enforcement officers across the United States use the same field sobriety tests to identify suspected drunk drivers. New Jersey police officers typically ask suspected DWI drivers to take a field sobriety test prior to arrest. If you have been arrested or charged with a DWI, it is imperative to reach out to an experienced New Jersey DWI defense attorney who can scrutinize the circumstances and results of your field sobriety test and build the strongest defense possible.

In the state of New Jersey, DWI stands for Driving while Intoxicated. The basic offense of a DWI consists of driving with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. Field Sobriety Tests are evaluations done by police officers in making roadside determinations as to whether a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. While these tests are optional for the driver, most officers do not inform drivers of their right to decline.

The National Highway Safety Traffic Safety Administration recognizes three field sobriety tests as reliable scientific indicia of intoxication. The Standardized Field Sobriety Test has precise instructions for officers to follow, as well as an objective scoring system. It consists of the following three tests:

  • One Leg Stand: this is when the officer instructs the driver to stand with one foot about six inches above the ground while counting out loud, typically for about 30 seconds. This helps the officer determine the driver’s ability to balance.
  • Walk and Turn: this is when the officer instructs the driver to walk heel-to-toe along a straight line, turn on one foot and come back along the same way. This helps the officer examine the driver’s coordination, as well as the driver’s ability to balance and follow directions.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): this is when the officer instructs the driver to follow an object (i.e., a pen) with his or her eyes. The idea is that HGN is faster and more pronounced in individuals who are intoxicated. New Jersey courts do not permit the use of HGN tests as evidence of guilt. They are, however, admissible as circumstantial evidence to establish probable cause for an arrest.

There are a number of ways an individual can challenge a field sobriety test. If you failed a field sobriety test that was not properly administered using the standardized system, you may be able to argue the results were compromised and should not be used against you. Additionally, there may be a number of reasons you failed the field sobriety test that have nothing to do with intoxication. For example, you may have a medical condition, disability, or a weight issue (i.e., obesity) that prevented you from passing the field sobriety test.

If you are facing a DWI charge, you need to act fast. Reaching out to a skilled and reputable New Jersey DWI attorney can make all the difference in your case. With years of experience, we know what your rights are and how to protect them. We are well versed in DWI defense and take great care in reviewing your case and building a defense. To discuss your case in more detail, please call us at 877-450.8301 or contact us online.

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