Field Sobriety Test in New York
Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are often used by law enforcement officers in New York as a means of determining whether or not a driver is impaired. These tests are designed to assess a driver's coordination, balance, and cognitive abilities, and are used to gather evidence of impairment in cases of driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI). FSTs are not foolproof, however, and there are many factors that can impact the results of these tests. The validity of FSTs has been the subject of much debate over the years, with some arguing that they are not accurate measures of impairment, and others contending that they are an essential tool for law enforcement officers. If you were charged with a DWI, DWAI, underage DWI, or any other related charge, contact an experienced New York DWI lawyer at Stephen Bilkis & Associates. With over twenty years of experienced, we have the knowledge and skill to review and challenge evidence and to help ensure that your legal rights are protected.What a Field Sobriety Test in New York Involves
There are three standardized field sobriety tests that are commonly used in New York to determine if a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs: the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, the walk-and-turn test, and the one-leg stand test.
The HGN test involves the officer observing the driver's eyes as they follow an object, such as a pen or flashlight, moved horizontally across the driver's field of vision. If the driver's eyes jerk involuntarily, it may be an indication of alcohol or drug impairment.
The walk-and-turn test involves the driver taking nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line, turning on one foot, and then taking nine steps back in the opposite direction. The officer looks for specific clues, such as whether the driver maintains balance or steps off the line, which may suggest impairment.
The one-leg stand test involves the driver standing on one leg while counting out loud for 30 seconds. The officer looks for clues, such as swaying or hopping, which may suggest impairment.
In People v. Beaupre, 2017 NY Slip Op 33103(U) (N.Y. Cty. Ct. 2017), the defendant was stopped by police for inoperable tail lights, and during the stop, the officer observed that the defendant displayed signs of intoxication. The defendant argued that the stop was not supported by probable cause, but the court found that the inoperable tail lights were a valid reason for the stop. The court further held that the officer had probable cause to administer field sobriety tests based on the defendant's slurred speech and the odor of alcohol on his breath. The defendant was ultimately found guilty of driving while intoxicated.What Happens After the FST
After the field sobriety test is administered, the officer will make a determination as to whether or not the driver is impaired. If the officer believes the driver is impaired, they will be placed under arrest for DWI. The officer will then transport the driver to the police station or hospital for a blood or breathalyzer test. Drivers can refuse blood or breathalyzer tests. However, in New York, drivers are subject to the state's implied consent law, which means that they have already consented to a blood or breathalyzer test by operating a vehicle on New York roads. Refusing to take the test can result in a driver's license suspension, fines, and other penalties.
If the driver is ultimately charged with DWI, they will need to appear in court. It is important to note that field sobriety tests are not always reliable, and there are many factors that can impact a driver's ability to perform them accurately. Therefore, it is crucial to hire an experienced New York DWI lawyer who can challenge the validity of the test and fight for the best possible outcome for the client.
At the court appearance, the defendant will be informed of the charges against them and asked to enter a plea. If the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty, they will be sentenced by the judge. The penalties for a DWI conviction can include fines, license suspension or revocation, community service, and even jail time.Reasons for Failing FST Besides Being Intoxicated
While alcohol consumption is the most common reason for failing a field sobriety test, there are other factors that can cause individuals to perform poorly on these tests. It is important to note that field sobriety tests are designed to be difficult and can be challenging even for sober individuals.
One factor that can cause a person to fail a field sobriety test is nervousness or anxiety. Being stopped by law enforcement and asked to perform a series of physical tests can be stressful and intimidating, especially if the individual has never been in that situation before. Nervousness can cause individuals to become uncoordinated, making it difficult to perform the tests accurately.
Physical conditions can also impact performance on field sobriety tests. For example, individuals with inner ear problems or other balance issues may struggle with the balance and coordination required for the tests. In addition, individuals with injuries or disabilities that affect their ability to walk or stand may have difficulty performing the tests correctly.
Fatigue can also play a role in a person's ability to perform well on a field sobriety test. Being tired or exhausted can affect reaction time, balance, and coordination, making it more difficult to perform the tests accurately. This is particularly true for individuals who work long hours or have recently completed a physically demanding task.
Lastly, environmental factors can impact a person's ability to perform well on field sobriety tests. Tests performed on uneven surfaces, slippery or wet pavement, or in poor lighting conditions may be more difficult to complete accurately. Similarly, individuals who are wearing inappropriate footwear, such as high heels or shoes with poor traction, may struggle to complete the tests properly.
It is essential to recognize that field sobriety tests are not foolproof and can be influenced by a variety of factors. If you have been arrested for DWI based on the results of a field sobriety test, it is crucial to consult with an experienced DWI attorney in New York who can help you understand your legal rights and options.Contact Stephen Bilkis & Associates
While the field sobriety test is an important tool that law enforcement officers use to determine if a driver is impaired, it is not always reliable, and there are many factors that can impact a driver's ability to perform the test accurately. If you are facing DWI charges in New York, it is important to hire an experienced DWI attorney serving New York who can challenge the validity of the field sobriety test and fight for the best possible outcome for your case. Contact Stephen Bilkis & Associates at 800.696.9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.