Not everyone knows what to expect when they are pulled over by a police officer and asked to take a sobriety test. In New Jersey, patrol cops are always on the lookout for drunk drivers. Moreover, NJ prosecutors typically seek maximum punishments in Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and Driving Under the Influence (DUI) cases. That’s why it is imperative that you remain calm and understand your legal rights when you are stopped on a New Jersey roadway and asked to take a field sobriety test.
The police officer who pulls you over will probably look for signs of intoxication, which can include slurred speech, blurry eyes, and the smell of alcohol on your breath. If the police officer suspects that you may be under the influence of alcohol, it is possible that they will ask you to step out of the vehicle and perform field sobriety tests. Depending on the results of the field sobriety tests, the officer could have probable cause to instruct you to take a breath test. Keep in mind that you have a legal right to refuse to take field sobriety tests, but you do not have a legal right to refuse to submit to a breath test!
NJ Field Sobriety Testing Procedures
NJ police officers will typically administer field sobriety tests in accordance with standardized testing procedures set forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
For the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, you can expect to be asked to:
1. Remove your glasses, if you wear any.
2. Put your feet together and your hands at your side.
3. Look at the stimulus (light pen) until you are told that the test is over.
4. Keep your head still throughout the test.
For the Walk-and-Turn test, the police officer will probably ask you to:
1. Place your left foot on a line and your right foot on the same line just ahead of your left, with the toe of your left foot against the heel of your right.
2. Take nine steps on the line, then turn around and take nine steps back down the line in the opposite direction.
3. Look at your feet and count each step out loud as you are walking.
4. Keep your arms at your side.
5. Refrain from stopping until you have completed the entire test.
For the One-Leg-Stand test, the police officer will probably ask you to:
1. Stand with your feet together and your arms at your side.
2. Raise one leg, approximately six inches off the ground and with the foot pointed out. You will have to keep both legs straight as you do this.
3. Look at the elevated foot.
4. Count out loud as follows: 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004, and so on. You will be expected to do this until the officer tells you to stop.
Challenging Field Sobriety Test Results in New Jersey
For both the Walk-and-Turn and One-Leg-Stand tests, the police officer is supposed to provide you with demonstrations before you begin. This is important, as failure by the officer to follow the testing guidelines could result in the test results being ruled inadmissible as evidence in court.
An experienced DWI and traffic defense lawyer can potentially challenge the evidence in your DWI case. This could include field sobriety testing procedures, breath test results, and the officer’s probable cause for making the traffic stop in the first place.
If you were pulled over in Atlantic County, NJ and arrested for drunk driving, you need a knowledgeable DWI lawyer on your side. The experienced, aggressive DWI and traffic defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John W. Tumelty can help you fight your charges and keep your driver’s license. Contact us now to schedule a free initial consultation about your case.