What About Field Sobriety Tests?
Note that only the police officer acting at the time knows exactly what it was that prompted them to ask you to submit to tests. It’s likely that they have a suspicion that you were driving while intoxicated, but that they want to prove it. They are not asking you to take the test so that you have the chance to prove your sobriety. The police officer most likely has seen that you were doing something unusual. Perhaps you were driving erratically. Alternatively, they may have stopped you because there was something else wrong, such as failure to signal, speeding, or a broken tail light, and then when they stopped you they thought that they could smell alcohol, or you looked intoxicated. At this stage, they still need to prove that there is something wrong so that they can arrest you, so they will ask you to get out of your car and then submit to a breathalyzer test or to take part in one of the more rudimentary field sobriety tests. It is at this point that you have to be careful about what you say and how you react, to avoid ending up with a criminal conviction.
You should understand that the police currently suspect that you are doing something illegal, and they are asking you to help them to confirm their suspicions, but they are asking you to cooperate voluntarily. This is a complicated area and you should tread carefully. Ideally, you will have a completely clear conscience and you will not have consumed any alcohol at all before getting into your vehicle. If this is not the case or you have other concerns, then the last thing that you want to do is offer any information to the police that would support them convicting you.
The purpose of a field sobriety test is to get the person being tested to provide support to the police so that the police can convict the suspect. Why would anyone want to cooperate when they have been accused of a crime? The best solution is to try to avoid the situation where the police are able to collect evidence, and the less you say the better until you have had the chance to talk to a lawyer.
How to Respond if a Police Officer Accuses You of Driving While Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol
The safest idea is to do and say nothing. Do not submit to any tests and do not make a statement. Ask, politely, to speak to a lawyer, then after that say as little as possible. Do not engage with the police at all.
The police are likely to offer or request three different field sobriety tests (there are others, though). The tests all have flaws, sadly, which increase the risk of a person being convicted even if they are under the legal limit.
Test 1 – Eyes
With this test, the police officer will wave a pen (or their finger) in front of you, and look for ‘nystagmus’, where your eyes move in a jerky fashion as they are following the object.
Test 2 – Walking
In this test, you will be asked to walk along an imaginary line in the road. This test is flawed because it is a high-pressure situation, and you may be out late at night on a busy road, stressed and scared because a man with a gun is telling you to do things to prove you are not intoxicated, and if you mess up you could lose your license and your job. Are you feeling shaky yet? Many people would be.
Test 3 – Stand on One Foot
Again, in this test, you will be asked to stand on one foot, tilt your head back, and perform some mental arithmetic out loud. Are you good at mental arithmetic even in a casual situation? Try this test now, and then consider if you could do it stressed after a hard day’s work.
Field Sobriety Tests are a Lose-Lose Situation
If you fail these tests, then you could face jail. This means that you need to be completely confident that you would pass the tests. Do you trust that the officer will be satisfied with what you do? Most lawyers would say that it is not worth taking that risk.