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NJ Field Sobriety Tests v. Chemical Tests

When you are stopped for DWI in New Jersey, you are asked to take some Field Sobriety Tests. New Jersey DWI lawyer Steven Hernandez will explain to you why field sobriety tests, which are often administered to determine whether you were driving under the influence, might not be the most reliable indicators of driving impairment.

If a police officer pulls you over for a suspected DWI, he will gauge your driving impairment. The best way to do this is a blood alcohol test. Chemical tests are more reliable because they objectively and precisely evaluate the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) within the margin of error of both the testing method and the testing instrument. This is a more scientific approach to gauging your driving impairment.

However, field sobriety test are not as scientifically accurate as chemical tests; in fact, they are often very imprecise indicators of your sobriety or impairment. This is because a field sobriety test all comes down to the police officer’s subjective opinion of your sobriety when he or she does not even know how you would perform on these tests under normal circumstances.

Despite the subjective nature of these tests, field sobriety tests are frequently used by police officers in order to:

  • Give the police officer probable cause to stop or arrest you;
  • Establish that you were physically or mentally impaired at the time you were driving; and
  • Prove that alcohol was a direct cause of your driving behavior.

Among the different types of field sobriety tests are:

  • Asking you complex, distracting, or interrupting questions;
  • Finger-to-nose test;
  • Finger count test;
  • Saying or writing the alphabet;
  • Counting backwards from 100;
  • Tracing (pen-on-paper);
  • Romberg balancing test (which is sometimes combined with the finger-to-nose test);
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN);
  • One-leg-stand;
  • Line walk;
  • Hand pat;
  • Picking up coins; and
  • Standing from heel to toe.