Field Sobriety Tests in New Jersey
When you have been pulled over by law enforcement officers, and they suspect that your blood alcohol level exceeds that allowed by law, a common method for identifying signs of intoxication is the field sobriety test. The field sobriety test can take a variety of forms, from walking a straight line to counting backward from a certain number.
The NHTSA (National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration) considers three different tests to be acceptable, though none of them have been scientifically proven to reliably demonstrate a likelihood of intoxication. Nonetheless, police officers will ask you to submit to these tests, and routinely testify in court regarding observations made during these tests. Though many people don’t realize it, you do have the right to refuse to take a field sobriety test without any legal consequence.
Here are the NHTSDA approved tests:
- The horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test-With the HGN test, the police officer asks you to follow some object-his or her finger, a pen, a flashlight. The officer is looking to determine whether your eyes involuntarily jerk when subjected to peripheral stimuli. According to some scientific studies, persons who are impaired tend to have more involuntary jerking. Some of the shortcomings of this test-everyone has some degree of involuntary jerking, so it becomes somewhat subjective. In addition, legal substances and certain medications or eye conditions can lead to increased jerking of the eye.
- The walk and turn test-In this test, you must walk heel-to-toe in a straight line for a certain number of steps, then must turn and take the same type of steps back to your starting point. This is essentially a test of balance, but there may be medical or other reasons why you have challenges with balance, including something as simple as your weight or lack of conditioning.
- The one-leg stand test-Here, you must stand with one foot off the ground until you are told to put that foot back down. As with the other tests, there are myriad reasons other than intoxication that you might have difficulty with this test.