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Criminal defense: Did police request a field sobriety test?

If a New Jersey police officer makes a traffic stop, there is no way to predict how events might unfold. Perhaps, the officer will merely issue a warning to the driver to slow down or to repair a brake light that is not functioning. If the officer asks the driver to step out of the vehicle and take a field sobriety test, more serious issues might be at hand, such as a suspicion that the driver is operating the vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, in which case the driver may be in need of criminal defense assistance in the immediate future.

In such situations, it is especially important that the driver in question is aware of his or her rights. No driver is obligated to comply with a police officer's request to take a field sobriety test. There are no legal or administrative penalties for refusing to do so.

Police typically use one of three tests to determine if they have probable cause to make a drunk driving arrest. The driver might be asked to walk a straight line with arms outstretched while placing the heel of one foot at the toe of the other with every step. The purpose of the walk-and-turn test is to see how well the driver is able to follow a series of instructions, and whether or not he or she has trouble with gait or balance.

A police officer may choose to administer a horizontal gaze nystagmus test to check eye movement on a driver, as well. If a person is intoxicated, his or her eyeballs may jerk erratically before reaching maximum peripheral vision while tracking an object from right to left or vertically. There are several other types of field sobriety tests that may be administered, but with any of the tests, if the officer fails the driver, he or she may wind up facing DUI charges in a New Jersey court, which is why most people in such circumstances immediately request criminal defense support. An experienced attorney can help a defendant protect his or her rights from start to finish.

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