You’re heading home after a dinner out with your friends — and you get pulled over. Maybe you make the mistake of telling the officer that you were at a restaurant for dinner and drinks, or maybe the officer smells alcohol on you from the glass of wine you spilled. Either way, the next thing you know is that you’re being asked to take a field sobriety test.
You’re being offered the chance to prove that you’re sober — rather than going straight to a Breathalyzer test, so that sounds like a good thing, right?
It is never a good idea
Here’s why and what you need to know about taking field sobriety tests:
- Field sobriety tests are not mandatory.
Unlike a Breathalyzer or other chemical testing, you are under no implied consent agreement that requires you to submit to a field sobriety test. You cannot be punished for your refusal.
- Field sobriety tests are designed to fail.
There are three main field sobriety tests in use:
- The horizontal gaze nystagmus test – Here, an officer watches your eye movements as you follow a small object without moving your head
- The walk-and-turn test – This test evaluates your balance as you walk heel-to-toe in a straight line
- The one-legged standing test – The officer observes your balance as you lift one leg off the ground for a as many as 30 seconds
These tests may sound easy enough, but there are millions of people out there who will fail those tests simply because they:
- Have inner ear problems that affect their balance
- Have a cold that affects their inner ear
- Are simply tired and unable to focus
- Have ADD or ADHD and can’t focus their attention
- Have back or leg problems that affect their gait
- Have certain visual conditions
The list goes on. Plus, whether you pass or fail the test is very subjective — and many officers are poorly trained when it comes to their evaluation and scoring.
- Field sobriety tests can only hurt you.
If you fail the test, you have just given the officer probable cause to demand a Breathalyzer test. Plus, you may now be on video (via bodycam or cruiser video) failing the test — and that won’t help your case, either.
If you’ve been charged with drunk driving, remember this rule: Remain silent until you speak with your defense attorney. A drunk driving charge requires a stalwart defense.