Know Your Rights During A Field Sobriety Test
Too many people assume that they have to do whatever they are told when a police officer stops them, including performance of a field sobriety test (FST). While it is always a good idea to be respectful and polite in your interactions with law enforcement, you also have rights. If an officer pulls you over on suspicion of drunk driving, the attorneys at Trbovich Law Firm want you to know what those rights are.
What Can The Officer Require You To Do?
In order to stop you at all, an officer must have reasonable suspicion that you are committing a crime. Officers can often create some minor violation as a reason to pull you over, but to charge you with DWI, they must have reason to suspect you have been drinking or taking drugs. They may later claim they smelled alcohol or marijuana.
The officer can ask for your license and registration, but you do not have to verbally answer any questions. You should not answer any questions about where you are going, coming from or if you have been drinking. Remember that the officer is looking for any reason to suspect you were drinking. You have a constitutional right to remain silent. You may say you respectfully decline to answer or that you will only answer questions with an attorney present. The officer may take this as a sign of guilt, however, and redouble his or her efforts to build a case against you.
The officer may ask you to step out of the car. If he or she is only asking, you do not have to leave your vehicle and you do not have to give the officer permission to search your vehicle. He or she can demand that you leave the vehicle, but they must have a reason. Therefore, they often make their requests sound like a command. You can ask if they are requiring you to get out of your car.
Should You Take The FST?
The officer cannot force you to take a field sobriety test. And unlike the breath test, you can refuse to take the FST without receiving any kind of citation. You have the right to say no, and we think you should refuse.
The field sobriety test usually consists of three parts. Although the different elements may vary by location, the most common tests include:
- Walk-and-turn test: the officer will check your balance by asking you to walk a straight line, pivot and walk back
- Finger-to-nose test: in this test you look up with your arms to the side and touch your nose with your finger. The officer is actually checking to see if you correctly follow directions.
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus test: the officer will shine a flashlight in your eyes to look for signs of intoxication
These tests have many problems, and you do not help your case by attempting them. You will only help the prosecution’s case against you if you make the slightest error. For these reasons, we do not advise people to take the FST.