"Field Sobriety Test"
When an officer requests a driver to exit the vehicle to perform a field sobriety test - also known as the balance test - it means the officer is suspicious that the driver is intoxicated.
Officers develop suspicion based on what the person says - yes officer I had drinks tonight - blurry eyes or slurred speech, or the smell of alcohol or drugs emanating from the vehicle.
Blurry eyes or slurred speech or the smell of alcohol or drugs emanating from the vehicle do not give rise to "probable cause" that a driver is intoxicated - probable cause allows an officer to arrest the driver for drunk driving.
Failure to properly and correctly perform the tests, however, does give rise to probable cause to arrest the driver for drunk driving.
Hence, performing well on a field sobriety test can mean the difference between getting arrested or being let go by the police.
The three acceptable tests are as follows:
1 One leg stand. This test is only 65% reliable and only if instructed properly;
2. Walk and turn. This test is only 68% reliable and only if instructed properly;
3. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN). This test has been found to be unreliable by the New Jersey Supreme Court.
A successful challenge to these tests may be raised when the subject suffers from injuries that would prevent him or her from performing the test properly, balancing problems, overweight, or they are senior citizens - older than 65 - wearing high heels or heavy boots, or the test performed on unusual terrain.
Another problem with field sobriety tests is that they are typically administered under lousy conditions such as poor lighting - since majority of suspected drunk driving stops take place at night - slanted street and with distractions such as cars whizzing by.
Plus, the cause of failure may be attributed to the anxiety level alone of an individual being subjected to these tests by an officer with a badge and a gun and red and blue lights flashing in their face.
Additionally, prior injuries or conditions such as being flat footed, having torn cartilage in a knee or suffering from any number of other physical ailments can affect a person's ability to perform these roadside tests.
To make matters even worse, the field sobriety test results are completely subjective at the discretion of the officer.
So even if you performed 90% of the tests correctly the officer may still be of the opinion that you failed and arrest you for drunk driving.
You have the right to refuse to perform a field sobriety test, although such refusal will almost certainly result in an arrest.
Would you like to ask an experienced NJ DWI lawyer the benefit of refusing a field sobriety test?
Once arrested the subject is brought to the police station located in the municipality where the subject was stopped.
Hence, if the driver was stopped in East Brunswick, New Jersey he or she will be transported to the police station of East Brunswick to perform the breathalyzer test.
The police are required to administer the test after
If the breathalyzer produces a blood alcohol content - BAC - of .07 or under then unless the driver is under 21 the police cannot charge the driver with driving over the legal limit of .08 - which carries penalty of loss of license between 7 months to 1 year.
If the blood alcohol content is less than the legal limit of .08%, the officer may still charge the driver with driving drunk based on the opinion that the driver failed the field sobriety test - maximum loss of license for failing a field sobriety test is 3 months.
However, if the subject refused to perform a balance test then the police will have no basis or justification to charge a driver with DWI.
Still, it is difficult to say if and when a driver should refuse to perform the balance test.
Sometimes the test results are useful to an attorney in dismissing a drunk driving charge with a high BAC reading when the subject performed well on the balance test.
When a subject performs well on balance tests, it is an indication that the police did not have probable cause to arrest that driver.
Hence, the breathalyzer test results become inadmissible as evidence in court.
The rule of thumb is that a driver should refuse to perform this test if he or she have injuries that would prevent them from performing the test properly, balancing problem, overweight, senior citizen - older than 65- wearing high heels or heavy boots, or the test is asked to be performed on unusual terrain or if the driver knows that he or she will not be able to understand the instructions or perform well on the test.
Finally, do not confuse the right to refuse to perform a balance test with the duty to cooperate with the administration of the breathalyzer test at the station.
There is no right to refuse to take a breathalyzer test at the police station.
Such a act will result in a
which is essentially the same as a DUI charge only more difficult to beat.
So the bottom line is this: A driver may still be convicted of drunk driving for failing to perform a balance test even after submitting to a breathalyzer test with an under the legal limit reading of .08, although the penalty for such a conviction is 3 months loss of license instead of 7 months to 1 year.
Would you like to ask a question or discuss the topic of a field sobriety test administered in New Jersey with a New Jersey DWI lawyer?