It’s 1:00 o’clock in the morning and you were just pulled over for speeding.  While talking to you the officer noticed your bloodshot and watery eyes, your slurred speech, and a strong odor of alcohol.  Based on these observations the officer has reasonable suspicion to believe you are driving under the influence, and can now ask you to take those “field sobriety tests” you see people doing on the side of the road under the glow of flashing red lights.  

You Do Not Have to Take Roadside Field Sobriety Tests

As long as the officer has reasonable suspicion to believe you are driving under the influence, he has the right to ask you to perform roadside field sobriety tests.  However, there is no law that says you are required to perform these tests.  You can say no.  You will very likely still be arrested and taken to the station for a breath, blood or urine test based on everything else the officer has already witnessed.  However, by saying no to the roadside field sobriety tests, you will have denied the officer more documented evidence of your intoxication.

Roadside Field Sobriety Tests are Different than the Breath, Blood or Urine Test Requested After Arrest – Failure to Take THAT Test is a Crime

It is very important to understand that the field sobriety tests the officer asks you to perform on the side of the road are very different from the blood, breath or urine test the officer asks you to take after you have been arrested and taken to the police station or other location where the blood, breath or urine test is to be administered.   Refusal to take the formal blood, breath or urine test which is requested after you have been arrested is a crime, and should not normally be refused.

Standard Field Sobriety Tests

The three most common field sobriety tests people are asked to perform on the side of the road include the following:

  1. Walk and Turn Test – During this test you are supposed to walk heel-to-toe, with your arms at your side, down a straight line for nine steps, while counting out loud.  At the end of the lineyou are supposed to turn around using a series of continuous small steps, and walk back down the line heel-to-toe, with your arms at your sides, and still counting out loud.  The officer watches to see if you commit any number of mistakes including losing your balance before starting the test, starting the test before he’s done giving you the instructions, not walking heel-to-toe on any of the steps, stepping off the line, using your arms to balance, and taking more or less than nine steps. 
  2. One Leg Stand – During this test you must stand with your feet together and your arms at your sides.  You must then raise one leg six inches off the ground, and hold it there while you count off 30 seconds out loud.   While performing this test the officer watches to see if you are swaying, using your arms for balance, putting your foot down, hopping, or losing track of your counting. 
  3. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test– During this test the officer will hold his index finger or a pen in front of your nose and tell you to follow it with just your eyes as he slowly moves it back and forth from left to right.  While doing this the officer is looking for something called “nystagmus,” which is basically an involuntary jerking or bouncing of the eyeball that a person is not able to control, and is usually only noticeable in most people when they are intoxicated. 
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