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NJ DWI Field Sobriety Tests

New Jersey DWI Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests are conducted after a driver is  pulled over when the police officer suspects intoxication.  The officer will ask the driver to perform  certain physical or cognitive tests to determine sobriety. The  National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has established guidelines  in an effort to make these evaluations more reliable.

Our firm is specialized in evaluating DWI field sobriety tests.  In fact, attorney Al Mollo is one of only a few attorneys in the State of New Jersey to be certified in administration of the field sobriety tests.

Some of the standard  tests administered are:

The One-Leg Stand  Test: The police officer asks the suspect to raise one foot off the ground  in an effort to assess ability to maintain balance and follow instructions.  The suspect is told to count out loud, look  down, point toes out and keep arms at his or her sides during the test. If a suspect stops  the test prematurely, puts his or her foot down, does not count out loud, or  use arms for balance, the officer may draw an inference of intoxication.

Walk and Turn Test: The Walk and  Turn test also assesses a suspect’s ability to maintain balance and follow  instruction.  It is considered a divided  attention test.  Put differently, a  suspect must listen to and follow instructions while performing a physical  task. In theory, it will be difficult for an intoxicated driver to adequately  multi-task in this regard.

At the  start of the test, the officer will ask the suspect to listen to  instructions.  Police reports often note  that defendants had difficulty paying attention to the instructions.  The officer then asks the suspect to take  nine heel-to-toe steps forward, pivot, and then take nine heel-to-toe steps  back.  The officer will also request that  the suspect count aloud the number of steps taken.

Signs of  intoxication include: missing steps, taking an incorrect number of steps,  difficulty maintaining balance, turning incorrectly, and failing to count steps  out loud.   If a suspect uses his or her  arms for balance or does not complete the test, the officer will determine this  to be a failure to successfully perform the test.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus  (HGN) Test: One common tactic used by police to detect intoxication is  the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, or HGN test.  While New    Jersey does not consider this test to be sufficiently  reliable to prove intoxication at trial, the State can nevertheless cite poor  performance on this test as probable cause grounds for the arrest.        During the HGN test, the officer will ask as a suspect to look at an object (usually a pen).  The object is moved back and forth, and the  suspect is asked to follow it with his or her eyes.  The officer is watching the eyes of the  suspect in an effort to detect a lack of smooth pursuit.  If nystagmus (the jerking of the eyes) is  detected, the officer may conclude that the suspect is under the  influence.

Arresting officers may also administer other, non-standardized  field sobriety tests.  These include  other balance tests, counting, reciting the alphabet and touching  finger-to-nose.

NJ Field Sobriety Tests

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