Sobriety tests are used by police and prosecutors to establish a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) to determine if they are driving under the influence. According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), driving with a BAC of .08 or higher means the driver is considered alcohol impaired. For persons under 21, New York and most other states consider driving with levels of 0.00 to 0.02 to be driving over the legal limit.
A police officer may observe you weaving or driving erratically and can pull you over for a field sobriety test. There are several different kinds of field sobriety tests which police can test your physical or mental ability to determine if your BAC is over the legal limit. These may include looking into your eyes, having you walk and turn on an imaginary line or walk and stand by picking a leg to balance on and lifting the other leg. Even if you pass one or two of the tests, the police officer could still arrest you if you fail a third test.
Even though field sobriety tests are not very reliable, and these tests are tests are considered subjective with many times people who are completely sober failing them, you can refuse to take a roadside field sobriety test. However, the officer can still make you then take a more sophisticated BAC chemical test or breathe into a Breathalyzer. If you refuse those tests, your license can be immediately suspended.
New York prosecutors use the results from sobriety tests to establish that you were physically or mental impaired and broke the law because your BAC was higher than the legal limit. However, a skilled and experienced New York criminal defense attorney may be able to argue that the physical impairment was from other reasons such as disability or medical condition and get the charges dropped. Other defenses that may be raised are that the police failed to read you your Miranda rights and violated your Constitutional rights.