The Cassidy Law Firm Blog

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Refusing Field Sobriety Tests in Long Branch

Whether you have been drinking or not, seeing the flashing red lights in the mirror when you are driving can be a stressful, if not downright frightening, experience. If you have actually had anything at all to drink you will undoubtedly be worried about the numerous negative consequences of being arrested, charged, and even convicted of driving under the influence, or DUI. One decision you will need to make if you are stopped and the officer suspects that you have been drinking and driving is whether or not to submit to the field sobriety tests the officer will want you to perform.

Field Sobriety Tests in Long Branch

Asking a motorist to perform a series of field sobriety tests, or FSTs, is standard procedure during a DUI stop in Long Branch in New Jersey. There are three “standardized” FSTs, meaning that they have been approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA. The three standardized FSTs are the one leg stand, walk and turn, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus, or HGN. Officers also frequently throw in additional, non-standard, FSTs such as reciting the alphabet, counting backwards, or touching your finger to your nose. Despite what most officers imply, you are not required to submit to the tests. Of course, an officer may decide to arrest you anyway; however, there are reasons why refusing field sobriety tests is a good choice.

When conducted properly and the results analyzed correctly, the standardized FSTs can be a good indicator that a motorist has been driving under the influence. In practice, however, the tests are rarely conducted according to the procedures approved by the NHTSA and even if they are the tests are hard enough to perform sober as they require you to do things that you would not naturally do such as stand still on one leg without using your arms. Moreover, the officer decides if you passed or failed the tests based on the officer’s subjective analysis of your performance. Clearly, an officer has an incentive to conduct the tests in a way that will encourage failure. The officer also has an incentive to interpret the tests in a negative light as that then provides the probable cause needed to actually charge you and arrest you. In summary, a motorist rarely gains anything by performing FSTs and more often gives and officer ammunition for an arrest and possibly a conviction for DUI.

Do you have the right to refuse the tests? Absolutely! The officer may not tell you that you have the right to refuse but you most certainly do. Of course you are required to answer simple questions like your name and provide the officer with your license and registration. You should also exit the vehicle if asked to do so as refusing can cause an officer to become unnecessarily worried about his or her safety. Beyond this though, you are not legally obligated to perform any tests.

If you have specific concerns about whether or not you should perform the field sobriety tests in Long Branch if ever asked to, consult with an experienced Long Branch DUI attorney.

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