August 22, 2020

Are you Automatically Convicted if You Fail a Sobriety Test in New Jersey?

Home / Criminal Defense / Are you Automatically Convicted if You Fail a Sobriety Test in New Jersey?

If you’ve ever found yourself in need of a DWI lawyer in Burlington County, you might be wondering if your field sobriety test can be used against you. Many people may assume that any failure of the field sobriety test will automatically result in a conviction, and with good reason. Theoretically, a qualified field sobriety test, when properly administered, should provide enough evidence of intoxication to support a conviction.

However, there are often significant differences between the theory behind the field sobriety test and how it gets put into practice. Here are some things you should know about how the field sobriety test is used in court.

Is the Field Sobriety Test Good Evidence of Intoxication?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in New Jersey has authorized the use of some field sobriety tests to determine the level of intoxication for drivers. As a consequence, they’re often used as evidence in a court case. Specifically, they’re used to help prove that you’re intoxicated and potentially too drunk to operate your vehicle safely.

However, there are a wide variety of tests that law enforcement uses, which can change the circumstances of your arrest in your favor.

Which Tests Are Authorized?

Field sobriety tests come in all shapes and sizes, and some individuals are asked to perform tasks that could be difficult to do well while entirely sober. However, the protocols developed in conjunction with the NHTSA has made it so that only three tests are seen as viable:

  • One Leg Stand: You’re asked to stand on one leg to test for overall ability to balance since alcohol often impairs this.
  • Walk-and-Turn: This field sobriety test is most often seen on television, where you’re asked to walk in a straight line, heel-to-toe, and then walk back the way you came without too much difficulty.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: While not technically able to prove intoxication, it’s often used as evidence to bargain with.

Beyond these three tests, you may find that officers ask you to perform other tests that can indicate intoxication but may not be nearly as valid, or even admissible in some cases. Even if the officer uses these three tests, suspects are often entitled to certain conditions, such as being allowed to take off cumbersome shoes or change the test’s location to a flat, dry surface so the results can be accurate.

How Does a Failed Field Sobriety Test Affect My Charges?

While failed field sobriety tests are used to support DUI charges, they change the courtroom conversation when it comes to building a defense. Law enforcement doesn’t always follow the rules as closely as they need to, and that can lay the groundwork for dismissing your charges due to lack of evidence.

To find out more about how a failed field sobriety test affects your case, or to speak with a DUI defense attorney in Burlington County, call The Law Offices of Jason C. Pollack, P.C. today!

Author: Jason Pollack
Read more articles »