If you have the misfortune of getting pulled over by police after drinking a few beers or cocktails, the law enforcement officer will likely ask you to perform one or more of the three field sobriety tests that the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) endorse.
You might think that your performance will impress the officer and make them realize you are not actually drunk. Then, you surmise, you will be free to go on your way home. What should you do?
Understand you have a right to refuse to take these tests
The top three field sobriety tests officers rely on are these:
- One-leg stand (OLS)
- Walk-and-turn (WAT), and
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN)
You might or might not be able to pass them. However, you should know that “passing” the tests comes down to an officer’s subjective decision-making process. They are not objective in their determinations, especially if they have already made up their mind that you are impaired.
Don’t create evidence against yourself
Most of these tests are now captured by either the dashcam of the police car or the officer’s own bodycam. Thus, you are surrendering your Constitutional right against self-incrimination when you are videoed taking these tests.
There is also the matter of the rigors of the tests at a time when you are already highly anxious about the outcome of the traffic stop. Many adults cannot stand steadily on one leg for 30 seconds under the most optimum conditions and without consuming a drop of alcohol. Ditto for the walk-and-turn tests. Those with certain vision and neurological conditions are also not able to pass the HGN test as well. Yet, the officer is asking you to submit to the tests on the side of the road, often inches from swiftly moving traffic, when you already are nervous and apprehensive. There is no upside here for you to participate.
Always remember to declare your right to remain silent until you get proper legal guidance in these matters.