Field sobriety tests such as the hand pat test may be used by New Jersey police investigating a suspected New Jersey DWI drunk driver. However, these ‘tests’ don’t help the officer decide whether to arrest the driver – he or she often makes that decision before the test begins. Field sobriety tests are supposed to be used only to establish probable cause for an arrest and to create evidence for a NJ DWI court case.
However, it’s possible to successfully challenge the results of field sobriety exercises such as the hand pat test. NewJersey DWI defense attorney who concentrates solely on DWI cases will work to effectively attack the results of a field sobriety test as part of an aggressive strategy to fight a drinking and driving case.
Police administering the hand pat test, instruct the driver to extend one hand palm up and place the other hand on top with the palm down. The motorist is then told to pat the bottom hand with the top hand while alternating the top hand’s palm position – facing up and facing down between pats. The driver must count out loud with each pat.
The officer is looking for clues that the motorist is impaired, including starting the test too soon, an inability to count as directed, an inability to follow instructions, an inability to pat hands as instructed, and stopping the test before told to do so.
Police and prosecutors may regard a driver’s performance on the hand pat test as incontrovertible evidence of intoxication, but that’s simply not the case. The hand pat test is notoriously subjective, meaning that the results can be interpreted in more than one way. In fact, it’s so unreliable an indicator of alcohol impairment that it isn’t even accepted as one of the standardized tests recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The hand pat test is inherently unfair because it relies heavily on physical coordination, which is not an accurate indicator of impairment caused by alcohol intoxication. To see why many field sobriety tests are so unreliable, it’s useful to understand how alcohol affects the central nervous system. Alcohol causes both mental and physical impairment, but mental impairment always occurs first. If the driver displays no mental impairment, any physical impairment must have stemmed from a source other than alcohol.
A number of factors unrelated to alcohol intoxication can cause a driver to perform poorly on the hand pat test, including illness, injury, or a nervous-system disorder. A skilled New Jersey DWI defense attorney can explain conditions that may have caused the driver to perform poorly, challenge the way an officer explained the test procedure, or even argue that the test wasn’t properly administered.
New Jersey DWI cases can be fought and won. There are many ways to challenge a NJ DWI arrest. Any driver accused of driving under the influence should consult with an experienced New Jersey DWI defense attorney who will fight to minimize or even eliminate the consequences of a New Jersey driving under the influence charge.
The New Jersey DWI lawyers at Levow DWI Law have all been qualified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the SFST protocols. We became qualified in the testing so that we can understand the exercises as well as or better than the arresting officer, in order to evaluate the testing performed and to help our clients. Evan Levow is a qualified instructor in the testing.
We will evaluate all field testing issues in your case, as well as all aspects of the NJ DWI / DUI arrest and processing to determine the best defenses available for you. Please call Levow DWI Law at 877-593-1717 to discuss your matter.