What are Field Sobriety Tests in New Jersey?
Drivers who are pulled over by a law enforcement officer under the suspicion of drunk driving may be asked to perform a variety of physical tests on the side of the road. These are called field sobriety tests. The driver may be asked to do them in order to determine if they are intoxicated. These are used by the officer to gather evidence of intoxication to charge the driver with driving while intoxicated (DWI). If you were charged with a DWI, it is important to retain the services of an experienced New Jersey DWI defense attorney for assistance with your case.
Examples of Field Sobriety Tests
Suspected drunk drivers may be asked to participate in field sobriety tests. The three most common tests that have been standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration include:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: When the driver is asked to track the officer’s pen, finger, or flashlight with their eyes and without moving their head. The officer is looking for any unsteady movement in the eye, which is called Nystagmus.
- Walk and Turn Test: There are two parts to this test. First, the driver has to stand with their right foot in front of their left with their arms at their sides. The second step is to walk heel to toe and properly turn. Failure to do so can be a clue of intoxication.
- One Leg Stand Test: When the driver stands on one foot and counts to 30. If the driver loses their balance at all or loses perception of time, it may be a clue of intoxication.
Other tests that may be administered but are not standardized are the Rhomberg balance test, the finger-to-nose test, reciting the alphabet, the hand-pat test, and the finger-tap test.
Can I Refuse Sobriety Tests?
It is important to know that drivers in New Jersey are legally allowed to refuse participation in field sobriety tests. These tests are voluntary and there is no legal penalty for refusing them. While this is true, it will most likely result in an arrest. However, participation in the tests could result in arrest anyway, so refusing to do so makes sure there is no hard evidence against the driver.
How Are Tests Standardized?
The official name of these tests is Standard Field Sobriety Tests. The word “standardized” means that there is an official and designated way that they need to be administered. If the officer fails to do so, the results cannot be used as evidence against a driver in court.
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