Whether You Are Functional or Coordinated During a Sobriety Test is Not a Defense Against a BAC Over 0.08%

Drunk driving breath test

Some people have the ability to have a few drinks and still be relatively well-coordinated – sometimes referred to as being a “functional drunk.” Such individuals may even be proud of the fact that they can be drunk and still perform regular activities. This ability may even extend to the person’s performance on a field sobriety test, if he or she is pulled over. Regardless of whether or not a person is completely successful on a field sobriety test, however, his or her performance will not be admissible to rebut a blood alcohol content (BAC) reading of over .08%. For that reason, it is important that you never drive drunk, even if you think you are okay and it won’t affect your driving at all.

Field Sobriety Test and Video Evidence

If you are pulled over for and suspected of drunk driving in New Jersey, one of the things a police officer will probably do is ask you to perform a series of movements that make up a field sobriety test – including walking in a straight line, following a flashlight with your eyes, holding out your arms and touching your nose with one finger, or counting while standing on one foot. It is also very likely that the officer will make a video recording of your performance on this test.

Because you can be on video every time that you are pulled over, it is important to remain polite and compliant, in case the video is later viewed by a judge or admitted as evidence in a trial. One of the ways the state may attempt to prove that you were driving drunk is by presenting evidence that you failed your field sobriety tests. Therefore, your performance on any field sobriety test, as well as your ability to speak to the police officer and answer questions, can help in your defense against a DUI/DWI conviction.

Field Sobriety Test Performance Does Not Rebut a BAC of 0.08% or Greater

At the same time, in the case of State v. Tischio, the Court concluded that a breathalyzer test result of 0.08% or greater, within a reasonably period of time after the operation of a vehicle or arrest, is conclusive proof of guilt. This means that a properly taken BAC of 0.08% or greater is a per se violation of New Jersey’s law against drunk driving, and this cannot be rebutted through other evidence.

Therefore, even if you perform really well on a field sobriety test – including if you manage to keep your balance when standing on one foot, walk in a straight line perfectly, and otherwise have no trouble speaking with a police officer and answering questions – you can still be convicted of a DWI/DUI. This is because the state can prove that you were operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol two different ways – through BAC evidence and through evidence of your inability to pass a field sobriety test. Any evidence of how you performed on a field sobriety test cannot be admitted to dispute the BAC reading, which can only be challenged through other defenses that are specific to how and when the breathalyzer or BAC test was performed.

At the same time, a BAC reading is not always perfect. There may be ways to challenge breathalyzer test results and have them excluded, at which point your performance on a field sobriety test can become very important. For that reason, it is especially important to always consult an experienced DWI/DUI lawyer if you are pulled over and charged with drunk driving. An DUI attorney may be able to fight the charges against you or have the charges dismissed completely.

Contact New Jersey Drunk Driving Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich

A DUI/DWI charge for operating a motor vehicle will involve many complicated evidential issues. Such a charge can also result in severe penalties that affect you and your loved ones. If you are charged with drunk driving or driving under the influence of any substance in New Jersey, an experienced attorney can make all the difference. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.