What You May Not Know About Breath and Field Sobriety Tests
If you are pulled over for a DUI, you are probably experiencing a high level of stress and fear. Many who are pulled over are first time offenders, not understanding what their rights are or how to proceed. It is important that you know your rights in order to protect yourself and your case. A DUI attorney is able to advise you on the procedure, your rights, and the next steps in the process in order to achieve a favorable outcome.
Field sobriety tests and rights
Drivers may not realize that they have a right not to perform field sobriety tests; the law does not obligate any driver to perform these tests. Due to the voluntary nature of them, many DUI attorneys advise against performing these tests. The reason DUI attorneys advise against these tests is that they are veteran attorneys that have seen first hand how field sobriety tests can impact a case negatively and lead to a poor defense.
Naturally, field sobriety tests are awkward and not everyday bodily movements and stances. These are not positions that are part of a person's everyday life. However, a police officer expects a potential offender to perform these tests under stress and suffering from extreme panic and anxiety.
If you tried standing on one leg, one of the many field sobriety tests required, at home, it would not be uncommon for you to fall even after a good night's sleep and your morning coffee. It is even easier to fall when a person is placed in a stressful situation and expected to perform. This is only one of the reasons your DUI attorney will tell you to politely decline the field sobriety tests.
Additionally, remember that the police officer pulled your vehicle over because they suspected that you were driving with intoxicated. In New Jersey, a police officer must have probable cause that a DUI is in progress in order to pull a vehicle over. Because the police officer already thinks that you are intoxicated, there will be very little you can do to disprove that.
What you need to know
Every field sobriety test will be viewed through the viewpoint that you are already guilty. Do not give the police officer, or the district attorney, any more evidence against you. Most police officers arrest individuals for a DUI between midnight and four a.m., it is easy to see how at that time of night any kind of test of coordination would be difficult to perform regardless of intoxication or not.
If you do not have a DUI attorney when you are pulled over, you can still politely refuse to perform the field sobriety tests. Inform the officer that you would like an attorney and do not say anything further to the officer.
The breathalyzer test
In New Jersey, it is widely known that the tool using for testing blood alcohol levels through the breath is very unreliable. Your DUI attorney will point out that this tool was invented in the 1970s in order to prosecute extremely serious offenses. For example, a fatal car crash caused by an intoxicated driver three times the legal limit.
Now, this tool is used on simple stops where the police officer may have noticed a tail light out. As a result, this tool ends up seriously affecting a person's life with no real scientific backing as to its accuracy. In one case titled Commonwealth v. Schildt, the judge, in that case, spoke to the reliability of breath tests and stated that they are "extremely questionable whether…breath testing could withstand scrutiny."
If breath testing was used in your case or someone you know had a similar experience, make sure to let your DUI attorney know immediately. In addition, if field sobriety tests were used in your case due to the officer not instructing you as to your rights, make sure your DUI attorney knows that as well. A strong defense is possible when all the important and pertinent information is given to your DUI attorney as soon as possible while it is still fresh in your mind.
For more information or to schedule a consultation with us, call our Sea Girt office at (732) 449-0449. Call Anthony J. Cafaro, P.C. today.
NOTE: This Blog is for Informational Purposes Only and Does Not Constitute Legal Advice
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