Somerset DUI Field Sobriety Tests

Once pulled over and suspected of being under the influence there are a few possibilities for how your Somerset DUI stop may proceed. Most commonly, the officer will ask you to perform standardized field sobriety tests in order to assist them in determining whether someone is under the influence.

What to Expect Leading Up to Testing

Initially, the officer will ask for the license and registration of the driver. If the officer begins to suspect that the person has consumed alcohol, the next question the officer will ask is if the person has been drinking. People often tend to be candid and admit to having drunk something or deny that they had anything to drink, but reek of alcohol, making that response inconsistent.

Other questions the officer might ask are where they have been and where they are going. The officer does not care as much about where they are going as they do about paying attention to their answers. They are going to be listening to see if the person is able to give a comprehensive answer, if the person’s speech slurred, and if they seem confused or disoriented.

Eventually, the questions will probably include the officer asking the person to agree to take some field sobriety tests, which are nationally standardized tests that are supposed to be conducted in the exact same way and in the exact same order every time. These standardized field sobriety tests are the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the nine-step walk-and-turn test, and the one-legged stand test. The officer will instruct the person as to how to perform those tests and will watch the person as they attempt to perform the tests. They are making notes if the driver is able to do the tests satisfactorily or seems to be having some issues with their balance, coordination, or ability to comprehend what is being asked of them.

Additionally, aside from the standardized tests, it is not unusual for an officer to ask the person to count backward from one particular number or recite the alphabet from a letter somewhere in the middle to somewhere else in the middle. A person has to think how to recite K through T instead of A through Z.

These tests are giving the officer some sense of whether the person is able to comprehend what is being asked of them and whether they are able to do these simple tasks. They are listening to hear the person’s speech and watching to determine if the person does not seem to be able to understand what is going on or is getting combative. All of that can be used against the person at trial.

Preliminary Breath Testing

The officer may ask the person to agree to take the PBT, which is the breath test that can be done on the side of the road. The result of that test is not admissible in court because that particular test is not considered to be scientifically reliable enough to be used as evidence. It is simply a tool that the officer can use to confirm or deny the suspicion that the person has consumed alcohol and to what extent. The officer has to make the decision about whether or not to place the person under arrest and for what charges. If the defendant is placed under arrest, the officer will ask them if they agree to take the breathalyzer.

A driver has to be provided very clear information about the option of taking the breathalyzer. That information includes advising the driver of what could happen if they refuse to take the test and what could happen if they take the test and it is a particular result, because there are consequences at the MVA that the driver has to be advised about.  This information is given to the driver through a form, referenced as the DR-15 Advice of Rights Form.

If a driver decides to take a breath test, they are going to be transported to a law enforcement agency to take that test and they would go through the whole process of taking that test. The next step would be for the officer to allow the driver to be picked up by somebody. They are given citations and allowed to leave or alternatively, the officer can decide to take that person to jail. They would have to be seen by a commissioner to decide whether or not they are going to be released. That is the step-by-step process for the DUI stop. The use of an attorney soon after a DUI stop can prove beneficial to help protect the driver’s rights dependent upon the sobriety tests.