Field Sobriety Tests

Field Sobriety Testing NJ

In New Jersey, police will normally ask drivers suspected of a DWI to take a Field sobriety test, such as the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, The walk and turn test, The one leg stand. If you are arrested and charged with DWI, you were probably asked by the arresting officer to perform certain roadside sobriety testing.

The sobriety testing is used by the officer for two reasons. First, the officer is trying to determine if there is a sufficient basis to arrest you for DWI. Based on your performance, the officer may conclude that there was “probable cause” and arrest you for driving under the influence. Second, the officer is evaluating your performance to determine if you are “impaired” as defined under the drunk driving statute.

Believe it or not, you can be convicted of DWI by the officer’s observations, by your driving conduct, and by the field sobriety tests alone. The state does not need to prove your blood alcohol content to convict you of drunk driving.

Do you want to discuss the details of your field sobriety tests? Contact us for a free case analysis.

Challenging the Validity of Field Sobriety Tests

Given the state’s low standard for convicting an individual of DWI, roadside sobriety testing is a critical issue in your case. Many police officers and prosecutors fail to understand that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) has performed scientific studies to prove the reliability of standardized sobriety tests. Many police officers and prosecutors will attempt to convince judges that other non-standardized tests are acceptable as a way of showing impairment. These prosecutors and police officers are incorrect.

The NHTSA has recommended that only 3 sobriety tests be used:

  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus test

  • The walk and turn test

  • The one leg stand

NHTSA studies have shown that a person who is under the influence of an alcoholic beverage may be able to perform certain mental tasks or certain physical tasks, but rarely both together. Based on the scientific divided attention tests, a person under the influence of alcohol is likely to make measurable errors while attempting these tasks. Judging from the degree and number of errors made, officers are trained to conclude whether they are impaired or under the influence of an alcoholic beverage.

Because the law allows a conviction for driving while intoxicated without a BAC reading, the police must use the appropriate standardized field sobriety testing recommended by the NHTSA. Otherwise, the state’s use of “alternative” tests is like comparing apples to oranges. If the law enforcement officer did not use the standardized tests, the state’s case could be vulnerable.

Begin Your Defense Today – Call for a Free Case Consult

Our New Jersey DWI defense lawyer will review your discovery in detail to see if the appropriate standardized field sobriety tests were used. We own both the Instructor’s Manual and the Participant’s Manual, which are used to train police officers on these tests. In addition, although the standardized test may have been used, it may have been administered incorrectly or in an area where you were set up to fail the tests.

Police often make errors by conducting these tests on uneven surfaces, while a subject is exposed to a bright light or close to oncoming traffic, or while the subject is wearing high-heeled shoes. All of these factors negatively affect the accuracy of the standard field sobriety tests and may assist in presenting a favorable defense in your case.

Want to learn the merits of your defense options? Call 856-235-9881 to arrange a free evaluation.

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