New York City Field Sobriety Tests and Breath Tests

In any case of driving while ability impaired by drugs (DWAI-Drugs) or intoxicated by alcohol (DWI), the arrest process remains largely the same. During the course of a traffic stop, the police may, if they suspect a possible DWI infraction, ask a suspect to step out of his or her vehicle to perform a series of tests to determine whether there exists probable cause for arrest.

The first to be performed are commonly field sobriety tests and may consist of the officer requesting the motorist to perform a series of physical acts in order to assess whether your physical coordination, or lack thereof, is commensurate with a state of intoxication due to alcohol or drugs. The physical acts requested during a field sobriety test can vary by precinct and even the preferences of the directing officer, but they’re usually consistent with what is expected: point finger-to-nose, walk-and-turn in a straight line, stand on one leg, et cetera. Then, depending upon how well these physical coordination tests are performed, the directing officer may request for the motorist to breath into a small portable device known as an Alco-Sensor.

An Alco-Sensor, while technically considered a breath test, should not be confused with a Breathalyzer or other similar chemical test that are used to determine blood alcohol content (BAC). Rather, it is used by officers to screen for the presence or non-presence of alcohol on the driver’s breath. If their performance on these series of tests suggest to the officer that they were driving while intoxicated or with impaired ability due to drugs the officer will make an arrest and transport the driver to the precinct for the measurement of your blood alcohol content.

If you are arrested, you will be advised of your Miranda rights by the officer. These Miranda rights are that you have the right to an attorney and the right to remain silent – and that anything you say to the police can be used against you in your criminal case. You should never disclose anything incriminating to the police such as how much you had to drink, how much you had to eat prior to drinking, etc. Once arrested, you should immediately ask to speak with a New York City DWI attorney. We could advise you on how New York City field sobriety tests may impact your case and if you should submit to a breath test.

Refusal of Field Sobriety Tests and Chemical Breath Tests

Motorists in New York City retain the right to refuse to participate in a field sobriety test. Under New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law, this includes the chemical breath test performed at the precinct to determine blood alcohol content. VTL § 1194 (2), (b). Unlike refusals of field sobriety tests, however, a refusal of a chemical breath test at the precinct is both a violation of New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law and can result in the immediate suspension of driving privileges within the state. The combination of which may, in the appropriate case, counsel against the decision to refuse. As a result, the New York Court of Appeals has held that individuals suspected of driving while intoxicated have the right to consult with an attorney over the phone at the precinct when deciding whether to submit to, or refuse ,a chemical breath test. People v. Shaw, 72 N.Y.2d 1032 (1988).

Is It a Good Idea to Refuse Field Sobriety Tests?

As noted above, refusing to participate in field sobriety tests during a New York City traffic stop will not automatically result in a license suspension. However, field sobriety test refusal could possible have positive or negative consequences depending on the circumstances.

Simply put, if a driver is pulled over when they are not intoxicated, participating in requested field sobriety tests will generally help their defense against any subsequent DWAI charges, as it could be used to show that they cooperated in good faith with their arresting officer’s requests. Conversely, performing poorly on these tests could help the prosecution, even if later blood alcohol concentration tests do not show per se impairment.

What Additional Field Sobriety Tests Are Performed at Precincts?

In New York City, police officers often perform another field sobriety test once someone suspected of DWI is brought into a precinct for BAC testing. After the breathalyzer or chemical test is complete, an officer may request that a detained individual participate in an additional coordination test.

These coordination test results are recorded, and depending on the defendant’s results, they could have a significant impact on their ensuing case defense. It is generally best to take advantage of the right to contact legal counsel before tests of any kind are administered inside a police precinct.

How Could Legal Counsel Help Contest Field Sobriety Test Results?

There are numerous ways in which a qualified attorney in New York City could work on a defendant’s behalf to contest field sobriety test results if the defendant consented to performing them after a traffic stop. Most defense strategies center around procedural errors committed by the officer responsible for the testing. For example, some of these defenses may include not reading all the instructions for each test to the defendant, or not demonstrating the test prior to asking the defendant to perform it. In other situations, a lawyer may contest the test results based on a defendant’s medical condition that prevented them from completing the test as an able-bodied individual would have been able to.

Schedule a Consultation with a New York City Attorney to Discuss Field Sobriety and Breath Tests

Our DWI defense lawyers are both experienced and knowledgeable in this field of law and are available at all times of the day to ensure any decision you make test is fully informed. Therefore, if you have questions about New York City field sobriety tests and breath tests, speak to one of the attorney’s at our firm today for a free consultation.

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