If you have been arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated in New Jersey, you're probably familiar with the field sobriety test. It is a series of physical tests included in the standard procedures used by police to determine whether drivers are drunk or under the influence of drugs. Failing the field sobriety tests doesn't necessarily mean you're intoxicated, and it certainly doesn't mean you will definitely be convicted in court. With an experienced attorney you may still be able to beat a case built on field sobriety test evidence. Many police officers, prosecutors and judges fail to grasp the scientific shortcomings and subjective failings of the field sobriety test methods used to determine probable cause for a DWI arrest.
Field Sobriety Testing in New Jersey
There are typically three parts to the test. The first is the horizontal gaze nystagmus. In this procedure, you'll be asked to stare straight ahead while police watch your eyes for involuntary side-to-side movements associated with alcohol and other substances.
A second component is the walk and turn, in which drivers are required to walk a straight line, heel-toe-to, then turn around and repeat, while counting each step along the way. There are a number of legitimate reasons a driver might fail this test, from vertigo to bad knees. Critics believe the walk and turn is designed to be too hard for anyone to pass, sober or drunk.
A third and final component is the one-leg stand. Like the walk and turn, the one-leg stand is a “divided attention” exam, in that it seeks to test your ability to keep your mental and physical faculties focused at the same time. And like the walk and turn, it's subjective and often unreliable.