Field sobriety tests same for drugs and alcohol

When determining your motor skills and ability to drive during a traffic stop, New York police use the same field sobriety tests, whether they believe you have been drinking alcohol or are under the influence of other drugs. If police believe you are under the influence of prescription drugs or narcotics they can still conduct a battery of tests to determine your ability to drive and arrest you for Driving While Ability Impaired or DWAI.

Earlier this month a man in New York was stopped for a traffic violation after a report of the vehicle being operated in an erratic manner. According to the police report, there was a an odor of marijuana coming from inside the vehicle when police approached it. The police said the man demonstrated slurred speech and his motor skills were found to be impaired after conducting a battery of field sobriety tests. Those standardized field sobriety tests include following an object with just your eyes, heel-to-toe walk and turn in a straight line and the one-leg stand.

A further search in the man’s vehicle found several pills including the controlled prescription drug Xanax and a plastic bag containing what they suspected to be marijuana. The man was arrested for felony driving while ability impaired by drugs, third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, operation of a motor vehicle by an unlicensed driver, seventh -degree possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of marijuana.

A DWAI charge carries similar penalties to a DWI in New York. But it carries a mandatory revocation of your driver’s license for at least six months, a substance evaluation and a $370 charge. However, there is no required installment of the interlock ignition system in your vehicle.

Source:, “Felony DWAI by drugs,” April 12, 2012

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Glenn R. Bruno, Esq.

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