ABCs

New Jersey police typically require drivers under suspicion for a New Jersey DWI to undergo a field sobriety test before being arrested. One test police use is the ABC “test”. Many drivers mistakenly believe that “passing” the ABC test will allow them to avoid a drunk driving arrest, but that’s not usually the case.

Field sobriety tests typically are supposed to be used solely to establish probable cause to make an arrest and to create evidence for a DWI court case. Field sobriety tests are notoriously unfair, but can be effectively challenged by a New Jersey DWI attorney who focuses on successfully defending DWI cases.

When administering the ABC test, police instruct the accused driver to say the alphabet in a particular manner. Often, the driver is asked to start at a particular letter and end at another letter, other than A to Z. The exercise is supposed to be used as a “pre-exit” test, before the driver is asked out of the car, but it is very often administered outside of the car. The officer is looking for so-called signs of alcohol or drug intoxication, including starting the test too soon, slurred speech, not following directions, or an inability to recite the alphabet correctly.

Police and prosecutors regard the ABC test as a valid indicator of intoxication because, after all, everyone knows the alphabet, but in reality, any driver would be nervous or worried after being forced to perform along a busy street or highway. Language issues, speech patterns, and many other background issues can affect a person’s ability or memory in reciting the alphabet.

Like other field sobriety tests, the ABC test is a divided attention exercise designed to force a driver to concentrate on two tasks simultaneously. However, when an individual drinks alcohol, mental impairment takes place before physical impairment. If the driver displays physical difficulties but no mental impairment, the physical problems may stem from a source other than alcohol.

In fact, the ABC test is such a subjective assessor of the mental and physical impairment caused by alcohol use that it isn’t even one of the accepted standardized tests set forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). There is no objective scoring system, and whether a driver “passes” or “fails” depends solely on the officer’s opinion.

Because the ABC test isn’t recognized by the NHSTA, it carries less evidentiary weight in court than standardized tests. An experienced New Jersey DWI / DUI defense attorney will aggressively challenge the results of the ABC test and work to create reasonable doubt as to the driver’s guilt.

Many drivers worry that a poor performance on the ABC test or another field sobriety test means an automatic driving while intoxicated conviction, but that’s simply not the case. A New Jersey DWI lawyer who concentrates on successfully defending DWI cases can effectively challenge the results of the ABC test as part of a proven defense strategy to minimize the consequences of a drunk driving arrest.

Because the lawyers at Levow DWI Law have all been trained in field sobriety testing and are qualified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the testing, we know these exercises and their rules as well as or better than the arresting officer. This helps us evaluate cases for our clients, and helps us cross-examine the officers if the matter proceeds to trial. It also helps us when we discuss the matters with the officers, prosecutors and judges when trying to work out a favorable resolution of your case.

Please call Levow DWI Law at 877-593-1717 to discuss how we can evaluate your field testing issues and the rest of the facts and allegations in your New Jersey DWI / DUI arrest.

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