Measuring Impairment In The Field

In recent years, law enforcement departments have worked to establish a national standard for testing impairment. Standardized field sobriety testing refers to the various techniques an officer will use to gauge a driver's ability to safely pilot a vehicle. As the driver completes this battery of tests, two or more clues or indicators can lead to a DWI arrest.

If you are facing an arrest for DUI or DWI, it is crucial that you have a skilled criminal defense attorney on your side who is ready to aggressively fight to protect your rights. I have more than 20 years of legal experience in both private practice and as a federal and municipal prosecutor. Schedule a free consultation at my firm, the Law Office of Susan C. Cassell, to discuss your case.

What Are The Standard Field Sobriety Tests?

While people might have been exposed to various types of tests — reciting the alphabet, touching fingertip to nose, etc. — three tests have been adopted as standard by law enforcement across the nation.

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test: During this test, officers watch for the onset of nystagmus while a suspect tracks a pen or the officer's finger as it slowly passes across their field of vision. Nystagmus is the involuntary jerking of the pupils that results from alcohol intoxication. Officers will watch to see if the eyes can track the movement in a smooth motion or a skipping, jerking motion.
  • Walk and turn test: While the name seems simple, there are numerous steps involved. A suspect will be instructed to take nine steps forward in a straight line walking heel to toe, turn and then walk nine steps back counting out loud. Several clues or failure elements exist, including starting before they are told to begin, failing to maintain balance while listening to instructions or the inability to touch heel to toe.
  • One-leg stand test: Officers will often attempt to gauge driving impairment via the one-leg stand test. Standing still with arms at either side, a suspect will be directed to raise one leg straight out six inches off the ground. He or she will then count to 30 out loud. This test includes four clues, which are swaying back and forth, raising the arms for balance, hopping or lowering the foot back to the ground.

In Bergen, Passaic and Morris Counties, it is wise to consider your future when facing a DUI or DWI charge. Penalties can quickly add up to serious consequences that, ultimately, might have a negative impact on other aspects of your life. Losing your license for multiple years, for example, might impact your ability to work or pursue an advanced college degree.

Contact My Bergen County Law Office For A Free Consultation

I offer free consultations for individuals to discuss their situation with me. My firm can be reached by calling 201-972-6653 or by completing an online contact form. I am usually available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for initial and emergency consultations, and I can meet with you in a variety of convenient locations, including the Bergen County Courthouse and in jails.