Law Offices of Michael T. Nolan, Jr.

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Challenging field sobriety tests

For many of the Ocean County clients we work with here at the Law Offices of Michael T. Nolan, Jr., their DUI arrests came after supposedly failing a field sobriety test. If you find yourself in this situation, you may be questioning exactly how accurate are these tests. Is it really possible for a law enforcement officer to determine your level of impairment through a few simple exercises?

Officials will often point to a study commissioned by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 1998 that reported the standard field sobriety tests that they used to be 91 percent accurate in determining blood-alcohol content levels. These tests include:

  •          The one-legged stand: If you happen to sway, flail your arms, hop, or need to steady yourself with one foot, an officer may take this as a sign of impairment.
  •          The walk-and-turn test: In this test, you are expected to walk heel-to-toe along a straight line and turn at the officer’s direction. Being unable to process multiple commands at once is also an indicator of intoxication.
  •          The HGN test: The horizontal gaze nystagmus test measure the movement of your eyes. The idea behind this test is that you’ll have difficulty following an object with your gaze or your eyes will jerk more than normal if you are drunk.

An officer will take the sum-total of the results of these tests into account when determining if you are impaired or not. However, a 2005 report in the Journal of Forensic Sciences pointed out that the earlier NHTSA study failed to account for factors that could influence SFSTs. When taking those into account, researchers showed a 29 percent chance of error in prediction accuracy for those whose BAC was below .08.

More information on challenging a DUI charge can be found on our site. 

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Law Offices of Michael T. Nolan, Jr.
514 Brick Boulevard, Suite 6
Brick, NJ 08723

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