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Facts that may surprise you regarding field sobriety tests

It's dark outside, and you are on your way home from a fun evening out with friends. It is raining, so there is a slight glare on the road, and your visibility isn't all that great. When a New Jersey police officer pulls you over and says that your tires were veering onto the yellow line, you weren't all that surprised since the road conditions were less than optimal at the time. You figured you would explain that and, perhaps, the officer would issue a warning, then send you on your way.

That's not what happened. Instead, the New Jersey law enforcement officer asked you to step out of your vehicle -- a potential sign that you are under suspicion for drunk driving. The next request was for you to take a field sobriety test. You had enjoyed a drink or two with your friends, so you were immediately nervous about that idea. There are several facts about field sobriety tests that you may not know, which can greatly affect a situation like yours, either positively or in a very negative way. 

Are you aware of these facts? 

While it may be tempting to argue with the police officer who has asked you to exit your vehicle, it would likely only make matters worse. The following list includes facts about roadside sobriety tests that may prove helpful for you to know:  

  • You are under no administrative or legal obligation to comply with a New Jersey police officer's request to take a field sobriety test. There are absolutely no legal or administrative repercussions for refusing. 
  • That said, you should also know that prosecutors know how to use the fact that you did not comply with a field sobriety test request to your disadvantage in court, if you wind up facing drunk driving charges. 
  • A police officer's personal interpretation of the situation has a lot to do with whether you pass or fail a field sobriety test. Whether or not you swayed when you walked is not as important as whether or not the police officer thinks you did. 
  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus eye test may be difficult to pass if you have a pre-existing eyesight condition that affects your peripheral vision. 
  • A past sports or car accident injury, as well as other issues, may impede your ability to perform well on a walk-and-turn or one-leg stance test. 
  • Studies show that, although the walk-and-turn, one-leg stance and horizontal gaze nystagmus tests are the most reliable of the numerous types of field sobriety tests police officers may use to determine if probable cause exists to make a drunk driving arrest, studies show that even these three tests are often not reliable to determine if intoxication is the issue.

Studies also show that, when police use a combination of field sobriety tests, results tend to be more reliable. You face a decision if an officer asks you to get out of your car and take one or more such tests. You can refuse; if you do, and the officer threatens you with arrest because of your refusal, then you likely would have grounds to file a personal rights violation complaint. You can also comply and hope for the best.  

If you face drunk driving charges 

Nothing can ruin a night out on the town like a traffic stop that leads to drunk driving charges. Whereas a speeding ticket is a minor traffic offense, drunk driving involves criminal charges and could lead to severe penalties under conviction, including a jail sentence and substantial fines. The more you know ahead of time about your rights and how to protect them in court, the greater your chances are of obtaining a positive outcome.

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