Am I Required to Take a Field Sobriety Test during a DUI Stop?

Photo of a gavelYou’re driving down the road, maybe home from dinner or drinks with some coworkers. You’re feeling good. It’s been a long week and you’re ready to get home, throw on Netflix and settle into bed.

And then you hear the siren. Your rearview floods with reds and blues. What did you do? Did you drink too much? Do you smell like beer?

The officer knocks on the window. License and insurance, please.

Do you know why I pulled you over?

Have you had anything to drink tonight?

What Tests Am I Required to Submit to During a DUI Stop?

New Jersey has something called implied consent. This means that if you are a licensed driver in the state of New Jersey, you have given consent to submit to breath, blood and urine testing if a police officer suspects you of being intoxicated. Do this mean that you have to do it? It depends on the kind of test they’re asking you to do.

First, the field sobriety test. This typically consists of three parts: the one-leg stand, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test and the walk and turn. Two of these involve balance and coordination, while the other tests your ability to smoothly follow an object or light with your eyes. You are NOT required by law to submit to these field sobriety tests. Nothing can be legally done to punish you for refusing this. However, you can bet the officer will testify to your refusal at the DUI hearing.

Then there’s the PBT – portable breath test. This is probably what you imagine when you think of the word breathalyzer. Implied consent requires you to submit to breath tests to avoid penalties, but a PBT does not count under this law. PBTs have a ton of problems. They can be inaccurate, they are often not calibrated regularly, and some don’t even give a number readout of BAC, instead only indicating a “yes” or “no” for the presence of alcohol. You can imagine how all of these issues can hurt your case. You are not legally required to submit to a PBT, and chances are, the officer won’t tell you that.

The tests covered under the implied consent laws are the ones you take after you’ve already been arrested. Refusal to submit to blood, urine or breath testing by an approved machine (they’re much larger than the handheld ones) could lead to a variety of penalties including the suspension of your driver’s license.

New Jersey criminal defense attorneys offering legal services to those accused of DUI in the state.



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