If an officer suspects you of driving under the influence (DUI) and asks you to take a field sobriety test, you may politely decline. In New Jersey, the law does not require you to comply with their request. It is essential to know your rights because no police officer will tell you that field sobriety tests are voluntary. You may fail the tests for reasons unrelated to intoxication, and then the officer will have probable cause to arrest you, and the test results may be used to convict you in court.
While you have the right to refuse a field sobriety test, if the police ask you to take a breathalyzer test, you must comply. Compliance with the breathalyzer test is assumed when driving in New Jersey, and refusing is illegal.
What Are Field Sobriety Tests?
There are three main standardized tests to test if someone is sober:
- One-leg stand test: With legs together and arms at the side, one leg is raised 6 inches from the ground with the foot pointed out. This position must be held for no longer than 30 seconds. Swaying, hopping, or using your arms for balance can reduce your score. Putting down your foot more than three times can indicate to the officer that you are inebriated.
- Walk-and-turn test: With arms at the side, you must take nine heel-to-toe steps forward, then turn nine back by putting one foot in front of the other heel-to-toe and on a straight line. The steps must be counted aloud. An inability to keep count, stay on the line, or balance without using arms will be taken as a sign of intoxication.
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus test: The officer will ask you to follow their finger or some other designated tool with your eyes as they move it slowly from the center to the side. You should be able to track the movement without nystagmus or involuntary eye movement.
The officer must give detailed instructions for all three tests and physically demonstrate the correct movement. They must also confirm that the driver understands the instructions before beginning the test. Failure to do so could invalidate the test results. Field sobriety tests are only as effective as the person administering them. Even when administered correctly, the tests have an average of around 65 percent reliability in predicting a blood alcohol content over the legal limit.
If you were stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence and agreed to take the field sobriety tests, contact an experienced lawyer immediately. Many factors can affect the test results, such as if the test was administered on level ground or medical conditions that interfere with balance. Diabetes, infections, congestion, vision problems, joint pain, and medications can all interfere with the ability to pass a field sobriety test.
Contact a Freehold Traffic Ticket Lawyer at Ellis Law, P.C. About Your DUI Charge
If you have been charged with a DUI based on a sobriety test, contact a Freehold traffic ticket lawyer at Ellis Law, P.C. for help. We will thoroughly investigate your case and fight to protect your rights. Call us at 732-702-6103 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we represent clients in Asbury Park, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Long Branch, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York City.