When a person faces a DWI charge as a result of a failed breathalyzer or field sobriety test, then it is essential that the arresting officer had “reasonable suspicion” to administer the sobriety test in the first place. The State of New Jersey places this burden on its state and local law enforcement to ensure that officers do not act based on their own “hunches” but rather on objective and articulable facts that are required to form a legal, reasonable basis for arresting an individual. Reasonable suspicion is a standard of proof that must be demonstrated by an arresting officer and the state in order to obtain a verdict against a suspected drunk driver. If the state fails to establish this standard, then there is effectively no case against the driver. However, reasonable suspicion is not a terribly difficult standard for the state to overcome, as the arresting officer need only provide “a reasonable, articulable suspicion that the defendant is under the influence of alcohol.” There are many factors that can contribute to an officer’s suspicion, including but not limited to:
The physical appearance of the driver (e.g. bloodshot eyes)
The smell of alcohol or drugs in the car or on the driver
Other physical indicators (e.g. difficulty handling documentation)
Once the officer observes these verbal or nonverbal cues, she will then ask the driver to step out of the vehicle in order to perform various standardized field sobriety tests. One of the initial tests typically performed is the “reverse alphabet.” Another test commonly utilized is to count down from a stated number in reverse. For example, the officer will tell the driver to count down from 36 and stop at 11. Many times, an intoxicated driver will forget to stop and count down to the number one.
The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN) is a common Field Sobriety Test that is typically conducted by law enforcement when investigating a DWI offense. The police officer will hold an object such as a flashlight vertically about one foot from the driver’s face slightly above eye level. The driver is then told to keep his or her head completely still while following the object only with the eyes. The administrator will then move the object slowly from side to side. The object of the test is to determine if the eye can maintain focus on the object or is “jerking” or “bouncing” side to side. This is because alcohol affects our brains’ ability to control our eyes and eye muscles. Therefore, it consumption of alcoholic beverages will often result in increased jerking or bouncing of the eyes. An individual is likely to fail the test once it is clear that the eyes are not following the object steadily.
The Walk and Turn Test
A very common method of observing field sobriety is the “Walk and Turn” test. The driver is simply asked to “walk a straight line”. The driver is told to stand on a line with the feet in a heel to toe position, left foot in front of the right. The driver is then asked to keep arms at the sides, listen to the complete instructions, and he or she should not begin until told to do so. Then, the driver is instructed to take nine steps along the straight line, heel to toe, while counting the steps out loud and watching his or her feet. Then the driver is asked to turn around and return to the starting point in the same manner. Drivers often fail the walk and turn test for various reasons, including: starting the test before the instructions are completed or they are told to begin, failure to maintain balance while listening to instructions, needing to steady his or herself, inability to touch heel to toe, loses balance while walking resulting in stepping off of the line, using arms for balance, etc.
The One-Leg Stand Test:
This self-explanatory test is failed when the driver sways while balancing, uses arms to balance, hops, rests foot, an cannot do test.
New Jersey DWI Lawyer
If you have been pulled over and subsequently arrested for a DWI in New Jersey as a result of failing a standardized field sobriety test in Ocean County including the towns of Point Pleasant Beach, Lavallette, Seaside Heights, Barnegat Township, Forked River and Waretown then it is in your best interest to hire a capable DUI Lawyer. For free initial consultation contact the Law Offices of William A. Proetta at (848) 238-2100 or stop by our conveniently located Toms River office.
Feel free to click on the following pages to explore other methods in which Officers gauge intoxication and BAC%:
NJ Alcotest 7110
NJ Blood Draw
NJ Ignition Interlock Device
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