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Can you refuse a field sobriety test in New Jersey?

On Behalf of | Mar 29, 2023 | DWI Defense |

If the police pull you over or stop you at a DUI checkpoint on suspicion of driving under the influence, they will likely ask you to participate in standard field sobriety tests.

What most people do not realize is that you can politely refuse to participate.

What is a field sobriety test?

There are three commonly performed field sobriety tests used in New Jersey:

  1. One-leg stand. This test requires you to stand on one leg and hold the other six inches above the ground. They will ask you to hold that position for roughly 30 seconds without losing balance.
  2. Walk-and-turn. The officer will ask you to take nine steps walking heel-to-toe, turn around and take nine steps back.
  3. The horizontal gaze nystagmus The officer will hold an object in front of your face and ask you to follow with your eyes only.

These tests are highly unreliable. Some are not even admissible as evidence in New Jersey court. For that reason, you can politely decline to participate. However, that does not mean the officers cannot carry out an arrest.

What happens if you refuse to participate?

Once you refuse field sobriety testing, the next step is typically to ask you to submit to chemical testing. This can include a breath test, urine sample or blood sample. While the police cannot force you to take a breath test, you do not have the right to refuse. Often, people refuse at the scene and take one at the police station after arrest and once they speak with an attorney.

If you submit to field sobriety tests, you can challenge the results in court. An arrest is not a conviction.