Validity of Field Sobriety Tests Used in New Jersey Questioned

Some experts in the field of law say that using field sobriety tests is not a valid indicator for drunkenness during a drunk driving traffic stop. One reason is the age of such tests used in New Jersey and across the country, originating over three decades ago. One expert cites a lack of research into how sober people perform on the typical sobriety tests for walking a straight line or standing still with one foot raised and counting.

Another claim is that officers in the field cannot use these simple physical tests to make any determinations about whether or not the suspect actually has alcohol in their systems, or if they might be unable to drive due to alcohol use. In dispute of this claim, a Highway Patrol officer cites he has never witnessed a sober person fail those same tests.

An Oakland, CA television station KTVU reporter videotaped random drivers to test both claims and found no conclusive results. Sober drivers said the tests were physically more difficult than expected. CHP officers use these tests as a screening tool before requiring suspected drunken drivers to submit to further testing of blood, breath or urine. They claim the field sobriety tests are very valuable and useful for screening impaired drivers. Some are actually drunk, while others are only tired, distracted or have bad driving skills.

If you are arrested and found guilty of DUI offenses, you may lose your right to drive or could even become incarcerated. Since field sobriety tests are not always accurate, any drivers that are headed for court over a DUI arrest should contact a reliable criminal defense attorney for protection of their legal rights in that case.

Source:, “Field sobriety tests may not always be accurate,” Oct. 27, 2011

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