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Standard Field Sobriety Tests in New Mexico

In New Mexico, the police are permitted to stop a vehicle if they observe suspect driving or if a driver is not following the rules of the road.  If the police smell alcohol or have other reason to believe you have been driving under the influence, they can ask you to take a field sobriety test to judge your ability to perform somewhat simple motor skills such as touching a finger to nose to determine a level of sobriety.  Such tests include making the driver stand on one leg for an extended period to check balance.  New Mexico law does not require submitting to a field sobriety test, so the driver can deny an officer’s request when prompted to take such a test.  However, such refusal will result in the officer asking the driver to take a chemical test of some kind (a breathalyzer, for example).  This request is not optional, and failure to comply can result in suspension of license for a minimum of one year. Field sobriety tests in New Mexico are not protected by the constitutional self-incrimination privilege.  This means that comments made by the driver during the field sobriety test can be used against the driver in a proceeding.  In other words, there is no bar to the driver incriminating himself in this way.  It is also important to remember that the use of lawfully taken prescription drugs is no defense to a charge of driving under the influence, so one must be careful of the side effects of any medication they are currently taking.

Field Sobriety tests can be challenged, since they do not involve a precise reading of the driver’s level of intoxication; rather they merely test the driver’s balance or mental cognition.  As a result, these tests are sometimes challenged as failing to accurately portray the driver’s true impairment or BAC. Field sobriety tests are optional and the police are supposed to make drivers aware of this fact.  However, they often fail to do so because the field test can be used later as additional evidence of intoxication.


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