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Field Sobriety Tests

DWI Lawyers Protecting the Rights of Drivers in Westchester County and Surrounding Areas

Field sobriety tests are commonly used by law enforcement officers to assist them in determining whether a person was driving while intoxicated (DWI). Although field sobriety tests are often criticized as subjective and unreliable, they may lead to an arrest for drunk driving. If you are facing a misdemeanor or felony DWI charge, a Westchester County DWI lawyer can guide you through the legal proceedings while safeguarding your constitutional rights. At Tilem & Associates, our skilled criminal defense attorneys can scrutinize field sobriety tests for any weaknesses that may assist in your defense.

Types of Field Sobriety Tests

If a police officer suspects that a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the officer may ask the driver to take a field sobriety test. Field sobriety tests are voluntary in New York, meaning that a driver may decline to perform a field sobriety test if requested by a police officer. While refusing to submit to chemical testing of one’s breath or blood may result in civil penalties, refusing a field sobriety test does not even carry civil penalties under New York law.

There are a variety of field sobriety tests that may be administered by law enforcement. If the police stop occurs in New York City, the field sobriety tests are performed at facilities known as Intoxicated Driver Testing Units and recorded on video. The New York City Police Department typically administers three field sobriety tests, often known as DWI coordination tests: walk-and-turn, one-leg stand, and finger-to-nose. Outside New York City, the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests are generally used by police, state troopers, and law enforcement. The Standardized Field Sobriety Tests were developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and consist of three separate tests: the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), the walk-and-turn, and the one-leg stand. An officer conducting an HGN will observe the driver’s eyes as they follow a horizontally moving object, such as a pen or flashlight. The other tests require the driver to listen and follow instructions while performing physical movements.

After the driver has completed the field sobriety tests, the police officer considers the driver’s performance along with any other evidence of alcohol or drug consumption. If the officer has probable cause that the driver is impaired, the driver may be arrested for a DWI.

Attacking Field Sobriety Test Results

Developing a defense to a DWI charge, whether it is a first-time or repeat offense, involves an examination of the facts surrounding the police stop and the circumstances of the arrest. If the initial traffic stop was unlawful, a DWI charge will usually be dismissed without regard to the defendant’s field sobriety test results. In other cases, attacking the reliability of a field sobriety test may be part of a defense strategy. A deviation from the testing procedures, an officer who was not properly trained or certified to administer a field sobriety test, or other issues in the case may lead a judge to suppress evidence of the test results. There are many innocent reasons why a person may fail a field sobriety test. For example, a driver with a physical limitation due to age, disease, or a medical condition may be unable to successfully complete one or more of the tests. Notably, although the prosecution often uses the defendant’s performance in field sobriety tests as evidence of a DWI, if police video shows that the defendant completed the field sobriety tests without trouble, the defense also may use it as evidence that the defendant was not impaired. A DWI attorney with detailed knowledge of your case can provide personalized advice regarding your defense.

Get Legal Advice Regarding Field Sobriety Tests from a Westchester County Attorney

If you are seeking trustworthy guidance following a police stop in Westchester County, the criminal defense lawyers at Tilem & Associates have the skill and experience to assist you. We also represent individuals in Bronx, Queens, Kings, Nassau, Suffolk, Richmond, Rockland, and Putnam Counties. Set up a free consultation to discuss a DWI or DWAI case by calling 877-377-8666 or submitting the contact form on our website.