Smell of Alcohol in a Car Is Not to Justify a Field Sobriety Test in New Jersey

  • Dan T. Matrafajlo
  • Wed Dec 2023
  • DWI,
  • 0
DWI Lawyer

Just because you are pulled over for a traffic stop, it does not mean you don’t have any rights under the law. Law enforcement must abide by certain laws, even if they suspect drunk driving. One important law came out of an important New Jersey Appellate Court decision of State v. Bernokeits. In that case, the court clearly held that the scent of an alcoholic beverage emanating from the interior of the car, when stopped, is not enough to justify field sobriety testing. 

This appellate decision is important because if you were instructed to administer a field sobriety test and your New Jersey drunk driving defense attorney can prove that suspicion of intoxication was based only on sent coming from your car, they can file a motion to suppress evidence of the field sobriety test.

What Is a Field Sobriety Test?

When you get out of your vehicle during a DWI investigation, the first thing the officer generally does is ask you to perform a field sobriety test. These are a series of subjective tests of which your “pass” or “failure” depends upon the officer’s opinion of how you performed. If the officer determines that you failed the test, you can be arrested for drunk driving.

Your Rights Under New Jersey Law

If you are pulled over for a traffic stop and the officer suspects intoxication, you are not required under New Jersey law to submit to field sobriety tests. The officer can ask you to perform a field sobriety test as a choice, but they are not required to tell you that such tests are voluntary. Therefore, it is important to note that you do not have to comply with such requests.

Moreover, state law also prohibits the officer from even making such requests in the first place if their suspicion of intoxication is only based on odor of alcohol coming from inside your car. The courts have cleared held that the officer must have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that you were driving while intoxicated. A simple smell odor emanating from your vehicle does not meet this standard to detain you for field sobriety testing. And if they do, your New Jersey drunk driving defense attorney can file a motion to suppress any evidence of such test that led to your DWI charges.

Call a New Jersey Driver’s Drunk Driving Defense Attorney Today

If you or someone you know has is facing drunk driving charges and wants to avoid a conviction, an experienced attorney can help. 

Call Beninato & Matrafajlo Attorneys at Law, LLC at 908-248-4404 to schedule a free, complimentary consultation with our legal team today to see how we can help you fight your ticket.

Dan T. Matrafajlo

Dan T. Matrafajlo

NJ State Bar: #031722003

Dan T. Matrafajlo, Esq., is the managing member and lead partner at Beninato and Matrafajlo, Attorneys at Law, LLC. Renowned for groundbreaking contributions to personal injury law, he has set legal precedents with influential Appellate decisions and garnered recognition in the New Jersey Law Journal. A consistent honoree on Super Lawyers' Rising Star list for the past five years, Matrafajlo's litigation prowess is widely acknowledged. He has won various awards like Super Lawyers, Thomson Reuters Association 2019, and Nominated into Super Lawyers as a Rising Star from 2012 until the Present.

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