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Field SobrietyTests

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

Defending Your Rights After a DUI in Bergen County

If you are pulled over and the police suspect that you have been driving while under the influence (DUI), they may ask you to perform a standardized field sobriety test (SFST). These tests are used by police in an attempt to determine if a driver is legally intoxicated. What an officer may not mention is that participation is completely voluntary and if asked, you are well within your right to refuse. However, if you have already taken or failed an SFST, our Bergen County DUI attorney can help.

Field sobriety tests are highly subjective as results are interpreted by the administrating officer. If an officer thinks that your performance resembles intoxicated behavior, they may argue that they had probable cause for an arrest. At Law Offices of Joseph R. Donahue, LLC, we know how to challenge the results and reliability of sobriety tests and diminish their effectiveness in court. Our attorney possesses 30 years of experience and has helped others in your situation to beat the charges against them.

The standardized field sobriety tests include:

  • Walk and Turn Test: Drivers are instructed to walk in a straight line, heel-to-toe while listening to instructions from an officer.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: Individuals must track an object, such as a pencil or light, horizontally across their field of vision.
  • One-Leg Stand Test: Drivers are asked to lift one foot off the ground and maintain balance for a period of time while counting aloud.

Do not let an inaccurate sobriety test threaten your future. Schedule a FREE consultation with our firm today!

Sobriety Tests Are Not an Accurate Gauge of Intoxication

Despite their widespread use by law enforcement, standardized field sobriety tests are highly inaccurate, unscientific, and unreliable as a method for accurately determining BAC. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the organization which provides testing regulations and promotes their validity. However, even their own research fails to provide conclusive evidence towards test reliability. In studies conducted by the NHTSA, it was found that an individual roadside test can be inaccurate in determining if a driver’s BAC is at .10% or higher in more than one in five cases.

Factors which can diminish the reliability of SFSTs include:

  • The officer does not communicate the needs of the test clearly or administers the test incorrectly.
  • Roadside conditions such as heavy traffic, weather, or uneven pavement can negatively affect a person’s performance.
  • An individual possesses a physical handicap or limitation which increases the difficulty of a test.

Common Field Sobriety Test Mistakes

In order to arrest you and charge you with driving under the influence, law enforcement must establish probable cause, which is a legal term for a confirmed suspicion that a crime has been committed. In order to legally establish probable cause, law enforcement will often ask you to complete a field sobriety test, which is a task designed to show whether or not you are intoxicated with a fairly high degree of accuracy. What many people mistakenly believe is that these tests are infallible—you might be shocked to learn that these tests are notoriously inaccurate and law enforcement personnel make mistakes when administering these tests all the time. Let’s take a closer look at these errors and how they could affect your case.


One of the largest flaws with field sobriety tests is that they are prone to influence from subjectivity, otherwise known as “confirmation bias.” Law enforcement officers suspect you might be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and thus they’re going to closely scrutinize your every move. This scrutiny often leads to false positives and mistaken beliefs that officers witnessed something that wasn’t there. This often leads to false arrests and unjust admissions of evidence against you.

Outside Influences

Many field sobriety tests are unfairly influenced by external factors that are outside of the subject’s control. For example, in the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, an officer holds up a pen or small object and asks someone to track its movement without moving their head. Normally, jerky and uncontrolled eye movements are signs of intoxication, passing cars and flashing lights in unfamiliar settings can all cause someone to divert their attention accidentally. This is particularly true for people who suffer from an attention-deficit issue and have little to no control over this reflex. As a result, the officer spots a false positive and wrongfully makes your arrest.

Test Difficulty

Can you stand up on one foot for an extended length of time? What about doing it while pointing your other toes outward and staring up at the sky? This is difficult for most people to do sober, so who’s to say that failing to do so is any indication that you might be intoxicated? Failing one of these tests could lead to you being arrested and charged with driving under the influence, even when you’re not even when you’re entirely sober.

Arrested Following an SFST? Contact Us Today!

If you have been charged with DUI after taking part in a field sobriety test, contact the Law Offices of Joseph R. Donahue, LLC immediately. You have the right to secure legal representation and you do not have to say anything without first consulting with our Bergen County DUI attorney. We know your rights and can work to limit your legal risk and exposure. Even if the officer who administered your test insists that you did not pass, our firm may still be able to help. The actions you take following an arrest can greatly affect the outcome of your case. Protecting your future begins by contacting our firm.

Call (201) 574-7919 today to learn about how we can help you to overcome field sobriety test results.


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