Numbers Backwards

Police investigating suspected New Jersey DWI drivers typically administer field sobriety tests as the numbers backward test as part of the investigation. Although many drivers believe that “passing” the numbers backward test will prevent a drunk driving arrest, in reality, the officer has usually made a decision to arrest the driver long before the test begins.

In reality, field sobriety tests are used to establish probable cause to make an arrest and generate evidence for a drunk driving court case. However, field sobriety test evidence can be successfully challenged. A New Jersey DWI attorney with experience fighting driving under the influence charges will aggressively cross-examine the arresting officer about a driver’s performance on the numbers backward test as part of an aggressive strategy to create reasonable doubt in the driver’s guilt.

In the numbers backward test, the officer instructs the driver to stand with his or her feet together and arms down while listening to the instructions. The driver is then directed to count from one to 10, then back down to one. Sometimes the driver may be told to begin at a random number and count backward until told to stop.

The numbers backward exercise is a divided attention test, because it requires the driver to concentrate on different tasks at once – in this case, counting, balancing and following instructions. While the driver takes the test, the officer watches for signs of intoxication, including an inability to follow instructions, swaying or other balance problems, an inability to count, or starting or stopping the test too early.

However, it’s obvious that many factors unrelated to alcohol intoxication could cause a driver to perform poorly on this test. Illness, injury, nervousness or fatigue, as well as language or speech pattern issues, could all hamper the driver’s test performance. Sometimes the officer doesn’t do a good job of explaining the instructions, or administering the test properly.

In addition, the numbers backward test is notoriously subjective, because the results can be interpreted in more than one way. An experienced New Jersey DWI / DUI lawyer can challenge the results of field sobriety tests.

The numbers backward test is so unreliable an indicator of alcohol intoxication that it isn’t one of the standardized tests set forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). There is no objective scoring system, and the officer’s opinion determines whether the driver “passes” or “fails.” Because the test isn’t recognized by the NHSTA, it is far less convincing in court than standardized field sobriety tests.

Drivers who feel they “failed” the numbers backward test often fear that their performance means a slam-dunk conviction, but that’s far from true. The counting backward test and other field sobriety tests can be effectively challenged in court. A New Jersey DWI / DUI defense lawyer who focuses on NJ DUI / DWI cases can sometimes use the driver’s performance on a field sobriety test to argue that he or she was not impaired.

The New Jersey DWI attorneys at Levow DWI Law have all been trained and qualified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the Standardized Field Sobriety Testing protocol. This helps us evaluate our clients’ cases and demonstrate to prosecutors and judges that the field testing is of limited value.

Please call Levow DWI Law at 877-593-1717 to discuss how the SFST’s were administered in your New Jersey DWI / DUI arrest