Perhaps you were driving home one evening when you saw flashing lights in your rearview mirror. You began pulling to the side of the road to let the patrol car pass but then realized you were the officer’s target. As the officer approached your vehicle, you may have wondered why he or she stopped you.
It became apparent rather quickly that the officer suspected you of drinking and driving. He or she asked you to exit your vehicle. Once you did, the officer asked you to participate in field sobriety tests. Before doing or saying anything, you should stop right there. You should know your rights and understand a few things about these tests first.
You don’t have to participate
The first, and perhaps most important, thing you need to know is that you do not have to participate in field sobriety tests. You have no legal obligation to do so, even though the officer will more than likely attempt to tell you that you must. The reason he or she will push you is that these tests help establish the probable cause needed to make an arrest. Don’t give the officer any help in that regard.
The second thing you need to know is that about one of every three sober people who take these tests fail them. Yes, you read that right. Sober people fail these tests. Any number of physical or environmental factors can cause this. You could have an inner ear infection, a bad back, weak ankles or any number of physical ailments that prevent you from “passing” these tests. Even contact lenses could cause you to fail the horizontal nystagmus test.
The officer’s biases could influence the outcome
One of the biggest problems with field sobriety tests is the officer administering them. He or she already suspects you of drunk driving. When observing the tests, his or her biases could influence whether you pass or fail them. For better or worse, the officer is only human. He or she will allow his or her beliefs to influence decisions either consciously or subconsciously.
The officer gets to determine whether you swayed, lost your balance or failed to properly complete the tests. That is a substantial amount of power over your future. If you participate in the tests and allegedly fail them, you will forever have an arrest on your record. Of course, not participating in the tests does not guarantee that the officer won’t arrest you, but at least you are not providing him or her with the probable cause needed to do so.
If the officer arrests you on suspicion of DUI
The officer could arrest you regardless of whether you participate in field sobriety tests or not. If that happens, you may want to take advantage of your constitutional rights to remain silent and speak with an attorney, since what happens next could significantly alter your future.