Understanding Field Sobriety Tests in NJ

Am I allowed to refuse participation in a field sobriety test?

​What Are DUI Field Sobriety Tests?

During a routine traffic stop, New Jersey police officers order drivers suspected of a New Jersey DWI / DUI to take a field sobriety test (FST).
Best Bergen County DUI attorney
Almost 100% of the time after ordering motorists to perform FSTs, New Jersey police officers will place that driver under arrest for allegedly driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance such as drugs, alcohol or both.

Many clients ask, “What was the purpose of having me conduct all of these tests if the officer knew all along that he was going to arrest me?” Regretfully, the majority of New Jersey motorists do not know and understand that in New Jersey, 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 leaves little to no room to ever 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 New Jersey 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.

At our firm located in Bergen County, NJ we have the experience in handling countless DUI/DWI cases to know if the police officer administered the FSTs correctly.

At Peyrouton Law, we interview our clients and listen patiently as they describe how they were ordered to conduct these field sobriety tests. Next, we compare our clients version of the traffic stop against the police reports and video (if available) to see if the police officer gave the appropriate instructions. Call today for a free consultation 201-766-4800

​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.

Common DUI Tests In New Jersey

Three tests have been standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These are: 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 – driving under the influence, which is focused on whether the driver was mentally and physically impaired, and 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 thoroughly scrutinized. BAC cases create more of a challenge because these cases involve the driver’s blood alcohol content after submitting to a breath test. Hope must never be lost when defending a BAC case.

​We’ve successfully represented clients with BAC cases that involved successful challenges to the “Operation” element of the NJ DUI/DWI statute:39-4:50. Or, in the alternative, we’ve successfully challenged BAC cases involving erroneously administered breath tests.

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