The Validity of Field Sobriety Tests


When you have been pulled over on the road in New Jersey, for any legal reason, and the police officer suspects that you may be operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, one of the first things you may be asked to do is submit to a field sobriety test. The purpose of the field sobriety test is ostensibly to help the officer determine whether you exhibit the behavior of someone whose ability to drive is impaired.

The Different Types of Field Sobriety Tests

There are generally three different types of tests that police officers in New Jersey will use to determine impairment: the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the one leg stand, and the walk and turn:

  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN)—A nystagmus is an involuntarily bouncing or jerking of the eye. Because alcohol affects the nervous system, persons who have consumed alcohol have difficulty controlling side-to-side eye movement.
  • The one-leg stand—This test requires that you stand with your feet together and arms at your side until instructed by the officer. You must then raise a leg six inches and keep your foot pointed out, keeping your eye on your foot at all times. You cannot be asked to hold that position for more than 30 seconds.
  • The walk and turn—With this test, you must walk a straight line, heel to toe, and then turn and walk back.

The Validity of Field Sobriety Tests in New Jersey

In New Jersey, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test may not be entered as evidence of intoxication. However, both the walk and turn and the one-leg stand are admissible, if administered properly. Both have been found to be an accurate predictor of intoxication in two of every three cases.

Contact Our Office

At Jack Venturi Law, we bring considerable skill, knowledge, experience and resources to criminal defendants across New Jersey. To schedule a private meeting, contact our office by e-mail or call us toll free at 866-339-7801. We represent clients throughout Middlesex County, Union County, Mercer County, Monmouth County, Essex County and Somerset County.

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