When you’ve been pulled over by law enforcement officers in New Jersey, you can be almost certain that the first question you’ll face is some variation of “have you had any alcoholic beverages today?” If your answer is yes, or if the officer has any reasonable suspicion that you may be impaired, the next step will typically involve some type of field sobriety test, so that the officer can either establish probable cause to administer a blood alcohol test or send you on your way.
The Validity of Field Sobriety Tests in New Jersey
New Jersey police officers will typically administer one or more of three different field sobriety tests:
- The one leg stand—To conduct this test, the officer will ask you to get out of your vehicle and stand with your feet together and your arms at your side. At some point, you’ll be requested to raise one leg at least six inches and point your toes forward, keeping your eyes on your foot at all times. The one leg stand is currently admissible in a New Jersey drunk driving prosecution, with a statistical accuracy of more than 60%. However, if the officer made you stand on one leg for more than 30 seconds, the results may not be admissible or may be considered less credible.
- The walk and turn—This is the one you’ve seen on television and in the movies. The police officer will ask you to walk a straight line, heel-to-toe. You’ll then have to turn around and walk back to your point of origin. This test, also admissible, has an accuracy rate similar to the one leg stand.
- The horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN)—A nystagmus is defined as an involuntary movement of the eye, supposedly a typical byproduct of the consumption of alcohol. The police officer will typically ask you to focus on something, like a pen or flashlight, and look to see if your eyes bounce when making side-to-side movements. The horizontal gaze nystagmus is currently inadmissible in a New Jersey DUI proceeding.
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