A GUIDE TO NEW JERSEY FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS

If you are pulled over for a suspected DUI or DWI in New Jersey, you might be asked to undergo a field sobriety test. These tests are not legally required, and a separate ticket cannot be issued for your refusal. State law does, however, require a breath test, and refusing to comply results in an additional charge against you.

While the types of roadside sobriety tests vary, three basic tests have been scientifically validated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN). HGN is an involuntary eye movement that occurs naturally when the eyes look to one side. When a person is under the influence of alcohol, his or her nystagmus may be exaggerated. The suspect might also have a difficult time tracking a moving object with his or her eyes. New Jersey has recently classified this test as "non-scientific," and its results cannot be used against a suspect in court.
  • Walk-and-turn. This is a "divided attention" test that requires the suspect to listen to verbal instructions while simultaneously performing basic physical movements - in this case, taking several heel-to-toe steps before turning and walking back in the same direction. NHTSA research has found that around 79 percent of suspects who exhibit more than two indicators of intoxication in this test will have a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher.
  • One-leg stand. This "divided attention" test requires the suspect to stand on one foot while counting aloud. Signs of impairment include swaying, hopping or using arms to balance and putting the foot down. Around 83 percent of suspects exhibiting two or more indicators in this test have a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher.

If you are pulled over for suspicion of DUI in New Jersey, it's important to remember that a field sobriety test is not legally required and that it may be possible to challenge its validity in court. Consult a lawyer for guidance.

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