Welcome back to the tenth and final installment of our 10-part series on Standard Field Sobriety Tests. I’m defense attorney Leon Matchin and in this article, we’ll briefly sum up everything from the previous parts of this series and talk a little bit about what it all means for you.
Over the past few months, I’ve explained the individual components of the SFSTs, the proper procedures for assessment, and their scoring. To recap, the officer will look for optical signs of intoxication which require the suspected drunk driver to visually follow a stimulus while the administrator looks for jerky eye movements indicative of substance use. From there, the officer may ask a suspect to perform a series of exercises called divided attention tests that split the suspect’s attention between mental and physical tasks. The walk and turn and one leg stand tests require a suspect to follow explicit instructions while verbally keeping count of their progress as the office assesses whether the driver is in any way impaired. The degree of reliability for these tasks ranges from 65% for the one leg stand, to 68% for the turn and walk test, and an accuracy for the eye exam at about 77%.
As I said in the last blog, those factors are used to determine whether or not the officer has the probable cause to arrest a suspect for violating New Jersey’s drunk driving law. More descriptive evidence is needed in the arrest report and courtroom testimony in order to justify a conviction—the officer must be able to describe how the suspect performed, and exactly what the suspect did when he or she performed the test and when these clues occurred.
So what does all that mean for you? These Standard Field Sobriety Tests are not 100% accurate and there is plenty of room for errors to occur while the assessments are being given. However, because they are more than 50% reliable, this information will be used to secure a conviction against you. In the event that you are charged with a DWI, you should seek the legal assistance from a skilled defense attorney as soon as possible. New Jersey law is very unforgiving toward drunk drivers and without proper legal representation, you will suffer the consequences. The chances of you getting yourself out of this situation without an attorney are slim.
Some of the penalties associated with a DWI conviction include loss of license, fines, possible imprisonment, higher insurance rates, and installation of an ignition interlock device. In addition to all that, a conviction will also show up on a background check, which could affect your chances of getting that new job or deprive you of the opportunity to attend an institute of higher learning—as most colleges and universities take this into consideration for admissions and most will not take students with a DWI or DUI on their record.
The good news is that you are not in this fight alone. In my 13 years of practicing law, I have had great success defending clients against drunk driving charges. So when you’re in a bind, make sure you have experience and proven results driving who you choose to represent you in light of these serious matters.
And this concludes our ten part series on Standard Field Sobriety Tests. Thanks for tuning in! Stay safe out there and remember: if you ever get into trouble with a DWI charge, give me call, I’m at your disposal. Again, I am defense attorney Leon Matchin and you can reach me at (732) 662-7658.