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DWI defense: Things to know regarding field sobriety tests

If a New York police officer pulls someone over on suspicion of drunk driving, he or she may be looking for probable cause to make an arrest. A strong DWI defense can greatly alter the ultimate outcome of a drunk driving charges. In fact, many defendants have been able to mitigate their circumstances by challenging evidence or requesting a dismissal of charges due to personal rights violations that occurred during field sobriety tests.

No one is legally obligated to take a field sobriety test. That is no doubt one of the most important things to remember. There is no administrative or legal penalty for refusing a police officer's request to take a one-leg stance test, a walk-and-turn test or horizontal gaze nystagmus test.

It should also be noted that if a driver does submit to such a test and fails it, the officer may consider it probable cause to make an arrest for suspicion of drunk driving. Field tests can be challenging, even for people who are completely sober. For instance, the officer in question might issue a failing grade if someone is performing a one-leg stance test and places his or her foot on the ground too soon. 

As for the horizontal gaze test, in which a New York police officer observes a person's eye movements when tracking an object left to right or vertically, there are any number of eyesight conditions or prior injuries that may affect one's ability to perform the test well. Intoxicated people's eyes tend to jerk erratically before reaching their maximum peripheral vision point. The results of such tests can be affected by a police officer's personal interpretation of the observations he or she makes. This is why the best DWI defense begins as soon as a defendant requests legal representation, which can happen even before an arrest has been made.

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