5 Defenses if You Failed the Field Sobriety Tests New Jersey
Posted by Scott Gorman - September 30, 2021

When you get pulled over for drunk driving in New Jersey, you are not required to take the field sobriety tests (FSTs). But, the police also aren’t required to tell you that you aren’t required to take them. As a result, most people end up taking the FSTs, and those who get charged with DUI typically end up having their test results used against them.

While prosecutors can use field sobriety test results as evidence in court, there are also several ways an Essex County DUI lawyer may be able to challenge your FST results. Here are five examples of possible defenses if you failed the field sobriety tests during a DUI stop in New Jersey:

1. Your Traffic Stop was Illegal

If your traffic stop was illegal, then all of the evidence the police obtained during your traffic stop is inadmissible in court. This is based on the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

However, in order to keep the prosecution’s evidence (including your FST results) out of court, you will need to convince the court that the police violated your constitutional rights. If you don’t assert your rights effectively, the prosecution will still be able to use your field sobriety test results against you.

2. The Arresting Officer Did Not Adequately Explain the Tests

Prior to administering the field sobriety tests, the police must explain the tests to you in a language you can understand. If the arresting officer did not adequately explain the tests during your traffic stop, you may have performed poorly because you didn’t know what you were supposed to do.

3. The Arresting Officer Did Not Interpret Your Performance Appropriately

There are standardized guidelines for interpreting DUI suspects’ performance on the field sobriety tests. While the police are supposed to follow these guidelines, they don’t always do so. If your supposed “failure” was based on the arresting officer’s misunderstanding or misapplication of the guidelines for interpreting FST performance, then the officer’s interpretation of your performance should not serve as evidence in court.

4. There is An Alternate Explanation for Your FST Failure

While alcohol impairment is one possible explanation for poor performance on the field sobriety tests, there are numerous other possible explanations as well. If prosecutors cannot conclusively point to drunkenness as the explanation for your poor performance on the tests, then your results should not be used against you. Some examples of alternate explanations for failing the field sobriety tests include:

  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Fatigue
  • Medical conditions that impact your eyesight or balance
  • Poor road, weather or lighting conditions
  • Wearing clothes or shoes that impact your performance

5. The Field Sobriety Tests are Not Reliable

Finally, in many cases, it will be possible to challenge your field sobriety test results by challenging the field sobriety tests themselves. The National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration (NHTSA) readily acknowledges that the FSTs are not 100 percent reliable. Since the prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, lack of reliability is a key issue. Depending on the circumstances of your case, your Essex County DUI lawyer may be able to raise this issue in order to prevent the prosecution from using your FST results against you.

Request a Free Consultation with Essex County DUI Lawyer Scott Gorman

Are you facing a DUI charge in New Jersey? Did you take the field sobriety tests during your traffic stop? To find out what defenses you can assert in your case, call 201-489-9199 or request a free consultation online today.

Published in Categories: DUI / DWI