Should drivers refuse to take field sobriety tests?

| Mar 16, 2021 | Blog, Dui/dwi

All states treat DUI as a serious manner, and an officer may subject the driver to field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests in New Jersey check to see if blood alcohol content levels are above the legal limit, which is .08 in most states. While drivers can refuse the tests, they should understand the law.

Refusing field sobriety tests and the law

During a field sobriety test, the officer checks the driver for impairment with standardized tests, which may include a walk-and-turn test, a one-leg stand test, and the horizontal gaze test. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration has conducted research to find these are best tests and made them standard.

However, some lawyers advise drivers not to take field sobriety tests, because results are subjective. Many officers neglect to tell drivers these tests are not required by law and often insist the driver take them. Drivers still may get charged even if they pass, but prosecution could argue the officer had no probable cause to arrest them.

Accuracy of field sobriety tests

The studies of the NHTSA have been disputed because of the questionable accuracy rates. One study indicates the one-leg stand test, which requires drivers to balance on one leg, has a 65% accuracy rate, even if the officer administers tests correctly. The horizontal gaze test has a 77% accuracy rate, and the walk-and-turn test has a 68% accuracy rate.

It could be difficult to determine if the officer performed the tests correctly or had a bias against the driver. Otherwise sober drivers can have difficulty passing the tests because of medical conditions, weight or age. The sobriety tests often require the driver to memorize several instructions, which they may forget under stress.

Drivers are advised to record interactions with police during a suspected DUI stop. Even if they have a recording as well as witnesses, they will need a good criminal defense attorney.

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