Can You Contest a Drunk-Driving Charge Based on the Results of a Field Sobriety Test?
If police pull you over in New Jersey, particularly after dark, don’t be surprised if the officer’s first question is “Have you been drinking?” New Jersey law enforcement officers take drinking and driving seriously and make such inquiries a routine part of a traffic stop. If you’ve had a beer after work or with dinner and truthfully answer in the affirmative, the officer may then ask you to step out of the vehicle and submit to a field sobriety test. Based on observations made during that test, you might be asked to take a blood alcohol test
As a general rule, there are three common field sobriety tests administered by New Jersey police officers
- The one-leg stand—This test requires that you start with your feet and arms together by your side. When the officer asks, you must raise your leg and hold it in the air for 30 seconds.
- The walk-and-turn—The walk-and-turn tests your balance, requiring that you walk forward heel-to-toe in a straight line, turn 180 degrees, and walk back to the starting point heel-to-toe. Typically, the officer first demonstrates how you should do this.
- The horizontal gaze nystagmus—With this test, the officer holds an object, such as a pen or flashlight, in front of your eyes and asks you to follow the object’s movements left and right. A sudden and involuntary jerking of the eyes, known as a nystagmus, is believed to indicate high blood alcohol content.
All these field sobriety tests have been successfully challenged in New Jersey courts. The one-leg stand is estimated to be unreliable in more than a third of all cases. The walk-and-turn is equally unreliable, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus is currently not admissible in drunk-driving prosecutions in New Jersey
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