Standardized Field Sobriety Test
Drivers under investigation for DWI / DUI in New Jersey are typically given a field sobriety test before being placed under arrest. Field sobriety test shouldn’t even be called tests, because they’re designed to be failed.
Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) are more aptly named Field Sobriety Exercises. They are road-side exercises that the motorist has likely never practiced before or previously been tested on.
Many drivers mistakenly believe that they can avoid an arrest by “passing” this test. Their true purpose is to create probable cause for an arrest and to gather evidence for a drunk driving prosecution. However, this evidence can be effectively challenged by a New Jersey DWI attorney who concentrates in successfully defending DWI / DUI cases.
Three field sobriety tests have been standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – the horizontalgaze nystagmus test, the walk and turn test, and the one-leg stand test. These tests are endorsed by NHTSA because they have precise instructions to follow and an objective scoring system. However, even standardized tests rely too heavily on the officer’s opinion to be truly objective. Further, if the officer did not administer the testing strictly according to NHTSA standards, the reliability and validity of the testing is compromised and of a lesser value.
At best, these exercises are 68% reliable in predicting that the driver has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or greater. Currently, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test is not even admissible in New Jersey courts.
An even bigger problem with field sobriety tests is that while they supposedly measure both mental and physical impairment from alcohol use, in reality, many of these so-called signs and symptoms of intoxication can be traced to physical problems unrelated to alcohol use.
When an individual drinks alcohol, mental impairment always occurs before physical impairment. Physical impairment can be masked in those with a high tolerance for alcohol, but mental impairment cannot be disguised. If a driver is physically impaired but not mentally impaired, the physical problems must stem from a source other than alcohol, and the motorist cannot be guilty of driving under the influence.
This is a critically important aspect of a NJ DWI / DUI defense. Physical impairment can be caused by many factors unrelated to alcohol use, including illness, fatigue, injury, or even nervousness. A New Jersey DWI lawyer experienced in defending New Jersey DWI / DUI cases will determine whether causes other than alcohol contributed to any impairment, and challenge the results of any field sobriety test.
Evan Levow is a qualified instructor in the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, having been qualified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. All of the lawyers at Levow DWI Law, P.C. have been qualified in the testing by NHTSA. We obtained this training because we want to know these exercises, their rules, and their meaning as well as or better than the arresting officer. This helps us evaluate our client’s case and determine the best strategy to attempt to demonstrate that the field testing should be given little to no weight by the court in determining whether our client was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Please call us to discuss how the “tests” were administered to you. Call Levow DWI Law, P.C. today at 877-593-1717 for a free consultation