What to Know About Field Sobriety Tests in New Jersey

What to Know About Field Sobriety Tests in New Jersey

What are the Most Common Field Sobriety Tests?

If you are pulled over and suspected of drunk driving, you may be asked to take a field sobriety test. 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.

Possible Defenses for a Failed Test

Before administering a sobriety test, a police officer must observe you for 20 minutes to look for signs of intoxication. Additionally, the officer must read all of the instructions, demonstrate the tests, and make sure that you understand. Some defenses of a failed Field Sobriety Test may include:

  • The officer did not read all the instructions
  • The officer did not demonstrate the test
  • The officer did not inform the individual that they may remove high heels
  • The individual has health issues preventing them from passing the test

Can I Refuse a Sobriety Test?

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. That being said, failing to it will most likely result in an arrest. Additionally, it is important to note that this does not cover breathalyzer tests. What many people don’t realize is that when they receive their driver’s license, they consent to a breath test at that time. 

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