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Which Field Sobriety Tests Are Used in New York?

Upon stopping you, a police officer may have tests for you in addition to and perhaps even before asking to take a chemical breath test. Those would be field sobriety tests, designed to help determine a driver’s balance, coordination, and reflexes. In this blog article, you’ll learn about field sobriety tests used in New York State. If you have taken a field sobriety test recently or been asked to take one, call a Rockland County DWI defense attorney. We’ll fight hard to defend your rights.

Are Field Sobriety Tests Mandatory?

You do not have any legal obligation to take a field sobriety test. Field sobriety tests are voluntary, though police may try to pressure you into accepting. This is by contrast to a chemical test.

If you are asked to take a chemical test—if, for instance, you are presented with a breathalyzer—you will be guilty of a traffic infraction, which cannot be removed even if you are later found innocent of a DWI. You will need to pay a $500 fine and your license will be automatically suspended for a year.

What Is a Field Sobriety Test Like?

If you did agree to the field sobriety test, then the police officer who made the request will tell you what you need to do for the test they will be using. As you perform the test, the officer will examine for any sign of impairment.

The field sobriety tests used in New York are:

  • The walk-and-turn test, which will try your ability to keep your balance as you walk heel-to-toe
  • The one-leg stand test, which will try your coordination as you stand on one leg and count
  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus test, which will try your eyes’ ability to follow an object without sudden twitches
  • The finger-to-nose test, which will try your ability to close your eyes and touch the tip of your nose with your finger
  • The Romberg test, which will try your ability to guess when 30 seconds pass while you stand with your feet kept together, your hands at your side, your head tilted back, and your eyes closed

Field Sobriety Tests Problems

Although officers are trained to do field sobriety tests, they can always make a mistake, which may in turn result in an inaccurate test. And then there are the reasons why field sobriety tests are at times contested as valid at all. Several factors outside of intoxication could lead someone to fail a field sobriety test, like mobility issues or time blindness.

And finally, police officers have been known to pressure individuals into taking a breath test if not a field sobriety test. A police officer may request a field sobriety test if they are thinking about charging you with a DWI but lack sufficient evidence. The prosecution would refer to this as establishing probable cause, while your defense lawyer might call it an implicit recognition that the officer already decided to arrest you beforehand.

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