Field Sobriety Tests in New Jersey
Summertime in New Jersey can be a lively and leisurely time, and adults from Westfield to Westwood to West Milford flock downstate to the Atlantic shore or eastward to the Hudson Waterfront in search of summer fun. While there is nothing wrong with spending time around the sun, the surf, and the sand during hot summer afternoons, New Jerseyans have a duty to behave responsibly during their social activities and vacations. The state has in place myriad laws to ensure that all drivers maintain safe driving practices and remain accountable for their actions behind the wheel.
Driving under the influence is a common offense in the state of New Jersey, and the recent introduction of Ralph and David’s Law has brought DUI-related crimes back into public eye. If you are pulled over by a police officer on suspicion of drinking and driving, it is important to remain calm and know your right. Complying with the majority of the officer’s demands and requests is essential, but drivers have more power than they may think over agreeing or declining to take sobriety tests. Remember these key facts about field sobriety tests if you ever find yourself stopped by an officer.
Your Physical Appearance During the Stop Can Make or Break Your Case.
The police officers will generally comment about whether or not you were driving erratically, carelessly, or recklessly. They often need to establish elements called observations. These observations include bloodshot and watery eyes, odor of alcohol, or unsteady feet. Therefore, admitting to drinking is not necessarily an observation. However, it is a statement against your own interest.
You May Refuse a Chemical Test, Though This Does Not Let You off the Hook.
Breathalyzer and Intoxilyzer exams are both examples of chemical tests. If you do not supply any of these chemical tests, the state still has the opportunity to attempt to prosecute you with the common law or observation DUI. In this case, the police officer testifies about your basic condition and comments on how you were operating the motor vehicle.
Performing Well on Field Sobriety Tests Will Only Help…
Performing the field sobriety tests is a challenge, even for sober people. However, performing them well when stopped could be a tremendous advantage. It might even help you get the case thrown out on a pretrial hearing, before you even have to go to trial. The police do a battery of standard field sobriety tests: HGN (an eye test), the Walk and Turn test, and the One Leg Stand. The officers will take those tests, break them down, and ultimately give their opinions.
…And Refusing a Sobriety Test Is Risky.
Not doing the tests would certainly provide the officer with less evidence, so refusing to take field sobriety tests may be a good idea. Refusing both chemical and field sobriety tests probably puts the prosecutor at some kind of a disadvantage. However, if you refuse a sobriety test, you will receive a separate summons for refusal, which can and should be challenged. This refusal does carry its own penalties, which include suspensions of driving privileges and, if you are licensed in the state, suspension of your driving license. While refusals may prevent an officer from making an ironclad determination of intoxication, they certainly have some disadvantages.
Being pulled over by a police officer can be a nerve-wracking experience, but it is critical that you not allow your anxiety to become overwhelming. Drivers have more control than the situation would imply, and it is within their rights to either demonstrate their innocence through or refuse to participate in field sobriety tests. If you receive a summons following a stop, contact an attorney with experience in DUI law in order to help your case and fight the charge.