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What are field sobriety tests and do you have to take them?

Having your vehicle stopped by a police officer can immediately cause anxiety and adrenaline to course through your body. You certainly want to make sure you remain respectful and adhere to the law during the duration of your stop. However, it is also important that you understand your rights.

In particular, you may have concerns if an officer suspects you of driving while impaired. You may know that you did not drink enough to become intoxicated or possibly did not even drink at all. Still, the officer may ask you to step out of the vehicle to perform standardized field sobriety tests. At this request, you mind may begin reeling, especially if you do not know what to expect.

Types of field sobriety tests

Officers typically utilize field sobriety testing to gauge various aspects of a driver, such as attention level, balance and physical ability. Some of the tests commonly include the following:

  • Walk and turn: An officer will request that a driver take nine heel-to-toe steps on a straight line before turning on one foot and coming back.
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus: This test involves having a driver attempt to follow a moving object with only his or her eyes. The officer will look for signs of involuntary eye jerking known as nystagmus.
  • One-leg stand: The third type of field sobriety test involves a driver standing on one foot for approximately 30 seconds. Officers may suspect impairment if the driver has trouble maintaining balance for that period of time.

Of course, you may worry about performing any of these tests as you could possibly have a medical issue that affects your eye movement, or you may be a naturally clumsy person. As a result, you could fear that an officer may consider you intoxicated despite your sobriety.

Refusing tests

What you may want to remember in this type of scenario is that you do not have a legal obligation to participate in field sobriety tests. An officer may request these tests, but you have the right to decline. However, refusing the tests does not mean that an officer will not take you into custody if he or she considers it appropriate.

In the event that you do face charges for DUI, you also have the right to defend against the allegations. Understanding your various defense options may help you move forward with your case effectively.

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