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To Arrest You for Drunk Driving in NJ, They Have to Have Probable Cause

Just because you are stopped for drunk driving in New Jersey, that doesn't mean that the police had probable cause to arrest you for that charge. Without probable cause, the arrest must fail and any evidence that was obtained as a result must be suppressed.

For that reason, if a police officer suspects you of drunk driving, he will have you perform certain "sobriety tests" before deciding whether or not to arrest you.

There are many tests that get performed by people on the side of the road, including reciting the alphabet and touching their nose with their index fingers and their eyes closed. Although entertaining for the police officer, they do nothing to establish probable cause of alcohol impairment.

What Are the Sobriety Tests?

The Southern California Research Institute conducted studies sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), to develop a battery of three tests administered and evaluated in a standardized manner to obtain validated indicators of impairment and establish probable cause for arrest. Otherwise referred to as the Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST), it consists of the following:

Formal administration and accreditation of the program for these tests is provided through the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).

The bottom line is, no matter how badly you recite the alphabet, no matter how many times you touched your eyes or lips with your finger rather than your nose, that does NOT give the cop probable cause to arrest you. Only these three tests are considered indicative of that.

How Are They Used?

According to the NHTSA site, when the component tests of the SFST battery are combined, officers are accurate in 91 percent of cases, overall, and in 94 percent of cases if explanations for some of the false positives are accepted.

This means that if less than all three of these tests are done, or one or more of the tests is substituted for the alphabet or nose-touch test, probable cause for arrest could come into question.

So What Do I Do?

If you have been charged with drunk driving in southern New Jersey, and you think the officers might not have had probable cause to arrest you, call my office at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to discuss your case and possible defenses. The penalties for drunk driving are just too severe not to!

If you are looking for more information on New Jersey's drunk driving law, then download my free book, How Much Trouble Am I In? A Guide to New Jersey Drunk Driving Law.

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Steven J. Richardson
Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.