Field Sobriety Tests DUI Attorney Union County, NJ
Providing Counsel to drivers across Summit, Elizabeth, Scotch Plains, Linden, and Union County
Police officers in New Jersey use Field Sobriety Tests to confirm or deny suspicions of drunk driving. These tests are not based on science, in the sense that they are not performed in a lab or backed with scientific evidence. If you have been charged with DWI, keep in mind, there is room for error and ways that an attorney can challenge the findings of the field sobriety tests.
Suspicion of Impairment Can Result in DUI Testing
As you know, a police officer can pull you over if he believes that you committed a violation of the motor vehicle code. This means that you can be stopped for virtually any reason. Common reasons for stopping a motorist include speeding, failure to use a turn signal, swerving, traveling too slowly, and having a light out (ie. headlight, tail-light, license plate).
Once pulled over, the officer approaches the car and asks the driver for the required credentials such as driver’s license, registration, and insurance. Usually, the officer talks to the driver while the driver is looking for the items. He is listening to the person’s responses, watching his movements and, taking note of items in the car or of anything unusual. Often, the officer will claim that the person was slow to collect the documents, his eyes were red, or that he reeked of alcohol. Once the officer suspects the driver of operating a motor vehicle while impaired, he will have the driver step out to perform field sobriety tests. The officer will use these tests to confirm the suspicion of DUI.
Indicators of Impairment During Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests are a series of physical tests designed to test your ability to listen, following instructions, and perform accurately. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) finds that the field sobriety tests if performed within the accepted standard, are “indicators of impairment.” The officer must be trained in performing the field sobriety tests to conduct them correctly.
Divided Attention Tests
What is known as “divided attention tests” are commonly used in field sobriety tests. Divided attention tests are used to divide the driver’s attention by requiring them to focus on physical and mental tasks simultaneously. Two common divided attention tests are:
- the walk and turn test (WAT); and
- the one-leg stand (OLS).
The “walk and turn test” requires the driver to listen to the instructions carefully and follow them to completion. The officer will tell the person to listen carefully, begin the test after the instructions, take a certain number of steps forward in a straight line, then turn and repeat the steps back. The officer will demonstrate the test. Many people fail in that they do not listen, begin before being told, cannot walk straight, or take the wrong number of steps.
One-leg Stand Test
A “one-leg stand test” requires the driver to again listen to instructions and follow them precisely and without deviation. The officer again demonstrates the test and watches the person closely. The driver will be required to lift one leg off the ground while keeping his arms close to his body and head tilted. When considered to be performing poorly, the subject will often lose balance or fail to follow instructions.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN)
A third test is often utilized in the field sobriety examination called the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (HGN). During this test, there is little instruction or physical activity. The officer simply requires the person to look at the officer’s finger and follow it side to side with his eyes only. The officer uses this test in determining whether the driver’s eyes follow smoothly from one point to another. If the driver’s eyes lag or jerk, it is considered an indication of impairment.
Possible Defenses to Fight a DUI Charge in NJ
Not all field sobriety tests result in further suspicion of a DUI. However, if the officer suspects a DUI, you will likely be taken to the police station and put through more tests, such as a breathalyzer or DRE exam. These tests taken together can complement one another to prove a DUI, or the inconsistent findings can be used to show that the field tests were incorrect. There are any number of ways evidence can be used in a person’s favor or against them in court. Our attorneys will review all of the evidence, including the field tests, to uncover any defenses for your DWI case.
Consult a Linden NJ Drunk Driving and DUI Attorney Today
If you have been pulled over by an officer to undergo a sobriety test in NJ, there are certain right that you have and that you should be aware of. Do not just go to your municipal court without consulting an experienced DWI lawyer, who knows the intricacies of the law, and will do his job to protect you from unfair outcomes.
To speak with Attorney Edward Cooper about your traffic violation in any municipal court in Union County, including Linden, Westfield, Elizabeth, Plainfield, and across Central and Northern New Jersey. Contact our Union County offices at 908-481-4625. Get the peace of mind you deserve, and allow us to protect your rights, your driving record, your driving privileges, and your insurance charges.