Articles Posted in Field Sobriety Tests

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:

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A news report earlier this month pointed up the danger of drinking and driving, not only in terms of legal liability, but especially due to the serious nature of accidents that can take place when operating a motor vehicle while possibly intoxicated due to alcohol or drugs. As Garden State DWI lawyers, my law firm is always ready to assist those motorists who have been accused of drinking and driving on New Jersey roadways. However, as drivers ourselves, we also know there are numerous risks associated with driving under the influence, many of which can be life-threatening.

That said, and while we in no way condone impaired driving, we do understand that some individuals can be fully unaware of their inebriation due to beer, wine or hard liquor, as well as possible impairment resulting from taking doctor-prescribed medications prior to getting behind the wheel. For those who believe they were unjustly charged with a DWI or drug DUI, my skilled legal team is available to help defendants fight those charges in a court of law.

Sadly, the reality of driving in New Jersey can mean that some people will be involved in a serious automobile or trucking-related accident as a result of some kind of impaired vehicle operation. From a legal standpoint, being charged with drunken driving following an injury-related roadway crash can often mean that the local prosecutor will consider other, more serious charges stemming from the accident itself.
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It’s safe to say that here in New Jersey few individuals would have anything pleasant to look forward to given a drunken driving or drug DUI conviction as the end result. Not only does a guilty verdict mean thousands of dollars in court fines, statutory fees and auto insurance premium increases, but the addition an ignition interlock device on one’s vehicle and the possibility of some jail time can be onerous as well.

For those who are considering the services of a drunk driving defense attorney, the time to act is very soon after one is charged with a DWI-DUI offense. It is quite important to find a qualified trial lawyer who has years of experience in defending motorists against charges such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) in a motor vehicle, breath test refusal, and marijuana DUI, among others. But we recommend that a person act swiftly, while choosing carefully, before too much time elapses.

As Garden State DWI defense lawyers, my legal team and I are keenly aware of the anxiety that a drunk driving summons can cause for many otherwise law-abiding people. The best suggestion is to find legal counsel as quickly as is practical so that you allow your defense attorney enough time to prepare a strong case. As long-time DUI-DWI attorneys, my law firm has assisted many individuals accused of impaired driving, such as by alcohol or narcotics. If a driver has been served with a summons and has a pending court hearing, the time to act is now.
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For those individuals out there who may be on the fence about fighting a drunken driving charge in a New Jersey courtroom, we have a few words of encouragement. While it may seem difficult to challenge the often monolithic institution represented by state and local law enforcement agencies, our court system is another significant — and very important — institution where the so-called “little guy” can dispute the charges levied against him by the state.

If a motorist is pulled over for a traffic infraction, only to find herself taken into custody and cited with drinking and driving, there are options available. From the standpoint of protecting oneself from harsh monetary fines and other penalties, it is always a good idea to consult a qualified DWI or drug DUI trial lawyer. In particular, for anyone who has been charged with a DWI-DUI offense, the first question that should come to mind is, “How can I fight this drunken driving charge?” As Garden State DWI defense attorneys, our initial comment would be to act as quickly as possible.

My colleagues and I have been defending drivers accused of intoxicated and drug-impaired driving for many years. We know that time is one of the more critical factors when deciding to fight a DWI or drug DUI charge. Certainly, it is highly recommended to contacting a skilled DWI attorney early on in order to get the best possible advice that may help guide the accused motorist through the steps often necessary to avoid a drunken driving conviction.
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Being arrested for intoxicated driving, especially if one is a law-abiding citizen, is nothing if not a traumatic and worrisome event. Motorists who are pulled over for traffic infractions generally are nervous to begin with, but if the driver knows that he consumed even a little alcohol previous to the police stop, that person’s anxiety level may be quite obvious to the patrolman in charge. As New Jersey trial lawyers and experts in the field of drunk driving defense, my legal staff is sympathetic to our clients’ situations, especially in cases where they believe they have done nothing wrong.

While it is often difficult to plan for an unforeseeable event, such as a DWI or drug DUI arrest, it is nevertheless a good idea to review some steps to take when such an occurrence does take place. Since most drunken driving arrests begin with a police stop for what is often a simple traffic infraction, it is wise to understand one’s rights under such circumstances.

When looking at what to do prior to and during a routine traffic stop, it is important to remain calm and react in a safe and predictable manner. This can begin the very first moment when a motorist notices that police cruiser following his or her car. Most drivers will likely see a patrol car in their rearview mirror just a short time before the officer switches on his emergency lights. In such instances, it is critical to act in a rational and intelligent fashion in order to demonstrate to the officer your ability to make intelligent and safe driving decisions from the onset.
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It goes without saying that many average motorists can become pretty rattled when a highway patrolman or even a local police officer pulls them over for a traffic offense. Because most people have little, if any, contact with law enforcement professionals in their daily lives, being confronted by any cop for an alleged moving violation can be a nerve-racking experience. As experienced New Jersey trial attorneys, my colleagues and I know very well how even the most minor of police stops can leave a driver trembling and second-guessing themselves.

Now, add the potential of intoxicated driving to the mix and you have a serious situation. The can be especially true when a motorist has just been at a restaurant or is returning home from visiting a party with friends or family. If any alcohol was consumed, there is always a possibility that the officer in charge may suspect the driver of DWI. When a state trooper or municipal patrolman asks for the details of one’s evening, having a couple drinks can turn a simple traffic summons in to a full-blown drunken driving arrest.

Leading up to an arrest, many times the police will request a motorist exit the vehicle to perform one or more of the standardized field sobriety tests, which may not always indicate correctly whether a person is impaired or not, but which is often relied upon when a policeman decides whether or not to make an arrest. Being nervous will quite often make the situation worse for a potential arrestee, since fumbling for documents and having a less-than-smooth vocal delivery can influence the outcome of a DWI stop.
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Considering the zealousness with which New Jersey law enforcement pursues drunken drivers, it’s not hard to imagine that local prosecutor’s offices are equally dedicated to convicting accused drunken drivers. With that in mind, it is important to remind anyone who has been charged with an alcohol- or drug-related driving offense that consulting with a qualified DWI-DUI defense attorney is often a good idea.

Our law firm serves the residents of New Jersey in counties such as Bergen, Monmouth, Ocean and Middlesex, among others. My colleagues and I know the ramifications involved with a DWI conviction — even on a first-time offense — not only in terms of the financial impact that may await a defendant, but also the potential social stigma attached to a drunk driving conviction. This is in addition to possible jail time, as well, though with the assistance of a skilled drunk driving defense attorney the odds of serving time behind bars is greatly reduced.

Even with the potential penalties hanging over the head of a motorist accused of DWI or drug DUI, quite a few drivers may still wonder whether or not hiring a New Jersey DWI lawyer is worth the trouble. This is because many drivers who are facing a DWI summons may simply consider the battle already lost once the charges are lodged against them. As experienced trial attorneys, we must say that there are numerous arguments why individuals should consider fighting a drunken driving charge.
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Regardless of the nature of an initial roadside police stop — be it a burned-out headlamp, sliding through a controlled intersection without completely stopping, or drifting in and out of one’s lane — the opportunity for a drunk driving or drug DUI summons can go up appreciably depending on how the driver appears to the police officer in charge. Bloodshot eyes or an unsteady gait may cause a patrolman to suspect some kind of intoxication, though neither condition is a surefire sign of being drunk or impaired.

Despite what some people may believe, being charged for DWI-DUI based solely on watery eyes or some other vague observation is usually not sufficient to result in a conviction for driving while intoxicated; other evidence is needed beyond a more or less subjective assessment. Experienced DWI defense lawyers, such as the legal team at our law firm, can offer up a number of plausible explanations for a variety of conditions, from allergies and migraine headaches to very cold temperatures or high winds at the time of the arrest.

Since an arrest for DWI or drug DUI needs supporting evidence, as required by law, the prosecution will often attempt to prove that the defendant exhibited a “substantial deterioration or diminution” of his or her mental faculties/physical capabilities due to alcohol or hallucinogenic, narcotic or habit-producing drugs.
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Just like everyone else, police officers are human. And while patrolmen do have many special skills, as well as years of training in criminology and law enforcement, they are not psychics; however, they do know what to look for when it comes to human behavior on Garden State roadways. As DWI defense lawyers, the attorneys at my firm meet a near constant stream of people who have been charged with traffic infractions and other offenses. On the whole, few of these individuals ever expected to be awaiting a court date to determine whether or not they will be convicted of drinking and driving.

What most people do not realize — at least not until it is too late — is that local and state patrolmen have a keen eye for the telltale hints that a motorist may not be paying complete attention to the job of driving. Whether that sign is a poorly executed turn, driving noticeably below the posted speed limit or drifting repeatedly outside of one’s lane, a seasoned officer can probably anticipate the outcome of many a routine traffic stop. Unfortunately for most drivers, what is a routine occurrence for a cop is hardly a typical experience for the average person.

There are a variety of strange activities and odd behaviors on the road that can garner a police officer’s immediate attention and, in the process, get a driver in very hot water. Especially if an individual has had a drink or two prior to the traffic stop, which might leave the odor of alcohol on the driver’s breath, there is a strong chance that the officer is going to suspect some kind of intoxication, at least initially. But, once again, it can often be some minor driving mistake that betrays a motorist and triggers a roadside police stop.
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Last week, the Hackensack Municipal prosecutor’s office dropped two key summonses previously lodged against a River Vale resident who was initially under suspicion of impaired driving after her vehicle struck and killed a well-known local business man last fall. According to news articles, the prosecution essentially cleared 63-year-old Kathleen Gehm of any wrongdoing in the tragic auto-pedestrian collision that resulted in the death of 87-year-old Jerome Some on the evening of October 8.

Based on court records, the DWI and reckless driving charges were dropped by Frank Catania Jr., municipal prosecutor for the city of Hackensack. The motion to dismiss, which was just recently filed, came months after the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office decided not to pursue criminal charges against Ms. Gehm following a negative toxicology report on blood taken from her after the deadly traffic accident. Those toxicology results were returned from the lab last December.

According to news reports, Gehm’s lawyer stated that at the time of the incident his client was “extremely shaken up” and freezing as she stood in the cold evening air in sandals. This information was part of the defense’s argument to the court as to why the woman allegedly failed two field sobriety tests requested of her by police officers at the scene of the crash. As a result of those failed tests, police asked the woman to take a breath test, to which she did consent in hopes of clearing herself of a DWI charge.
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