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Participating in Field Sobriety Tests Could Be Costly

The Law Office of Joel M. Bacher Sept. 3, 2020

Whether you had something to drink or not before you got behind the wheel, when you saw flashing lights in your rearview mirror, you got nervous. When you began talking to the officer, he or she asked you to step out of the vehicle.

It may have surprised you when the officer said he or she suspected you of driving impaired. You may believe you aren’t impaired, but something about the encounter made the officer believe you are. The next thing you know, he or she is asking you to participate in field sobriety tests. Should you do it?

The Facts About Field Sobriety Tests

Why should you refuse if you don’t think you are impaired? After all, wouldn’t the tests prove you aren’t? Consider the following facts:

  • The first thing you need to know is that you are not legally obligated to participate in these tests. The officer may make it seem that way, but you may politely and calmly refuse to do so.

  • You could fail the tests due to the officer’s bias. Remember, he or she already suspects you of impairment, and that could influence his or her observations of you during the tests.

  • Field sobriety tests rely on the subjective opinion of the officer administering them. Each officer may interpret differently whether you are swaying or whether your eye movements aren’t smooth, which means it’s possible that no two officers would interpret your movements the same way.

As you can see, if you agree to take part in these tests, you will find yourself at the mercy of the police officer. Someone already suspicious of you will look for anything to substantiate that belief. In addition, by participating and failing field sobriety tests, you are helping the officer establish probable cause for your arrest. Considering all this, it would most likely better serve your interests to refuse the officer’s request.

Of course, you may still find yourself under arrest if the officer believes he or she has enough other evidence to take you in on suspicion of impairment. If this happens, you may want to exercise your right to an attorney as soon as possible. Facing criminal charges can be a frightening experience, and the sooner you have someone on your side who can thoroughly review the situation, explain your rights and identify possible avenues that may provide you with the best possible outcome under the circumstances, the better.