What Is The Purpose of DUI Field Sobriety Tests In NJ?
During a routine traffic stop, NJ police officers can order drivers suspected of drinking and driving to take a Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs).
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In the majority of cases, driver’s will be placed under arrest for DUI/DWI after performing Field Sobriety Tests.
Clients always ask, “Why did the cop make me take these tests if he was going to arrest me anyway?”
Regretfully, most motorists do not know that in NJ, Field Sobriety Tests are optional.
The worst part is that police officers in New Jersey do not inform drivers that FSTs are optional.
The manner and word choice that police officers use to order drivers to conduct these tests leave no room to believe that the tests are optional.
A police officer will never say, “I’m going to ask you to step out of your vehicle and perform a few tests but only if you want to because your participation is completely voluntary…”.
The way the DUI/DWI law in NJ works is that an officer needs “Probable Cause” to believe that you were breaking the law before they place you under arrest.
In our experience, the FSTs are seldom administered correctly and the officer fails the driver to satisfy the underlying “Probable Cause” requirement to make the arrest.
These failed tests are subsequently used by the prosecutor to get a DUI/DWI conviction.
If field sobriety tests were not administered correctly, we challenge these tests at trial and attack the “Probable Cause” element required under NJ law to make the arrest.
Please know that in New Jersey, a DUI/DWI charge cannot be plea bargained. This means that to win in a DUI/DWI case, the case must be won at trial.
A prosecutor cannot offer a plea to a different charge as he/she may do with other traffic offenses.
What Are The Field Sobriety Tests In NJ?
Three tests have been standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
1) the horizontal gaze nystagmus test;
2) the walk and turn test; and
3) the one-legged stand test.
These tests are standardized because they have precise instructions to follow and an objective scoring system.
New Jersey DUI/DWI cases are prosecuted under two different theories.
The first theory is focused on whether the driver was mentally and physically impaired.
The second theory is the “per se” allegation, which concentrates on whether the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was .08 percent or greater.
All field sobriety tests, in addition to the FSTs recognized by the NHTSA, are highly subjective and must be aggressively challenged.
BAC cases create more of a challenge because these cases involve the driver’s blood alcohol content after submitting to a breath test.
Do You Have To Take Field Sobriety Tests In NJ?
There are many reasons why a person may refuse to participate in Field Sobriety Tests in NJ.
A common reason why a person may politely refuse one of these tests is that they have undergone foot, ankle, knee or hip surgery. As a result, they do not feel healthy enough or strong enough to take the tests.
Another reason may involve a language barrier. When a police officer conducts Field Sobriety Tests in NJ, that officer issues many instructions. For someone who is not a native English speaker, these instructions may be very difficult to follow.
Lastly, some people have had bad experiences with law enforcement and do not trust cops. They learned about their right to remain silent and will immediately ask for a lawyer during any police encounter.
How To Refuse A Field Sobriety Test In NJ
You may say something like this. “I don’t understand this whole process and I respectfully decline to do this stuff.”
Keep your statement short and sweet.
Do not try to explain all of the reasons why you may fail the tests.
Everything you say during the stop can and will be used against you later at trial.
If you say, “I drank too much and cannot possibly pass the test”, then this statement will hurt you.
Final Thoughts Regarding Field Sobriety Tests In NJ
DUI charges are very difficult to win.
In addition to Field Sobriety Tests, the police use other types of evidence against you.
They can use dash camera video OR in-station video to show that you were drunk.
In addition, they can use breath or blood samples (depending on the case) to show that you were intoxicated.
Simply refusing to participate in Field Sobriety Tests does not mean that you will win your case.
A big part of our job as DUI lawyers in NJ is to set your expectations.
We never give false hope and we never rob you of hope.
We prepare the absolute best defense with the facts we have to work with.
Contact us for a FREE consultation.