New Jersey DWI – DUI Lawyer Edward M. Janzekovich
Field Sobriety Test Attorney in New Jersey
When you think of getting pulled over for suspected drunk driving, you might think of police administering a breathalyzer test to determine whether you are intoxicated. Or you might think of the more “old school” field sobriety tests depicted in so many movies, where police ask a driver to walk in a straight line, follow a flashlight with their eyes, or count while standing on one foot.
In New Jersey, law enforcement officers are supposed to conduct both types of testing. A field sobriety test is often given first at the side of the road, so police can build probable cause to conduct a breathalyzer test later at the police station or take you to the hospital for a blood test. Another reason police have you perform field sobriety tests is because it is used to serve as “backup” evidence in case the breathalyzer results are later found to be inadmissible. However, the results of field sobriety tests are also often inadmissible, because so many factors can invalidate results.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has developed three specific tests that, if performed properly, are considered reliable evidence of intoxication, but only two of them can be admitted as proof of intoxication in New Jersey:
The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test
In performing this test, officers will ask the driver to follow a small object, usually a flashlight or pen, with their eyes. In order for results to be accurate, the object must be held 12-15 inches away from the face and just above the eyes. Not all individuals are appropriate candidates for this test. An officer should check for equal pupil size and other indications that the driver may have a medical disorder, head injury or visual impairment, in which case the test should not be administered. In New Jersey, this test is not considered scientifically reliable and it cannot be admitted as proof of intoxication at trial.
The Walk and Turn
This test involves walking a straight line, heel to toe. Signs of impairment include not keeping balance while instructions are being given, starting before the officer instructs you to, stopping while walking, missing the heel to toe step, stepping off the line, using arms to balance, turning improperly or taking the wrong number of steps. Certain factors create good reasons for challenging the results of this test—for example if a person has balancing problems, is overweight, elderly, wearing high heels, has a knee injury, or if the test is conducted in a bad area such as poor lighting, garbage in the road, or an uneven road surface.
The One-Leg Stand
Officers will require a driver to stand with his or her arms down, and lift one foot six inches off the ground with pointed toes, looking down at the raised foot while counting out loud (one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three, etc.) for thirty seconds. Signs of impairment include swaying, use of arms to balance, hopping or putting down a foot. Again, many people are not good candidates for this test. Advanced age, health conditions, inappropriate footwear or terrain all call the reliability of this test into question.
There is no statutory penalty for refusing to perform a field sobriety test, however if you do refuse, a judge is allowed to treat your refusal to do them as if you were too drunk to do them, so make sure you do the tests if asked.
On paper, these field sobriety tests seem simple enough. But are they? It’s late at night, you are tired, police cars are flashing lights, you are surrounded by police with flashlights pointed at you. It quickly becomes a very intimidating experience as you are wondering to yourself if you are going to lose your license and go to jail. This is exactly why if you find yourself in this situation, you need to contact us immediately.
Top New Jersey DWI Lawyer Edward M. Janzekovich Defends Against Invalid Field Sobriety Test Results
Hiring the right New Jersey drunk driving lawyer can mean the difference between a life altering conviction, or a mere bump in the road of your life. To discuss your case, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients in Ocean County, Monmouth County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Union County and Somerset County.