A DUI conviction can have consequences that effect all areas of your life. You face harm to your reputation and career, loss of your driving privileges, large fines and even potential jail time.
After asking for your name and identification at a DUI stop, a police officer will probably ask you to perform some field sobriety tests.
Unlike a chemical test to determine your blood alcohol content, you can say no to performing field sobriety tests with no legal penalties. You can refuse a chemical test as well, but your driver’s license will be revoked for a year.
Types of field sobriety tests
You are probably already familiar with the most common types of field sobriety tests. You may be asked to stand on one leg and count until the police officer tells you to stop or recite the alphabet backwards.
Another typical field sobriety test is the walk and turn test. The police officer is testing both your ability to walk a straight line and follow instructions.
In the walk and turn test, you are asked to walk a specific number of steps forward with your heels touching your toes as you take each step, turn around and walk back the same number of steps.
If you lose your balance, fall, take the wrong number of steps or even take a step without your heel and toe touching, you will fail the test.
The nystagmus test
A nystagmus test is another type of test you will likely be given. A police officer will hold up a finger and ask you to follow it with your eyes as they move it in a side-to-side direction.
While you do this, the police officer is looking to see if you cannot follow their finger with your eyes or if your eyes jerk around. You will be asked to stand with your arms at your side and feet together while you do this.
Not following the object or jerking eyes can be signs that someone is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, the results of this test can be unreliable.
You may be extremely nervous after being pulled over and this can cause you to be unable to maintain a steady gaze on a moving object. The police officer could move the object too fast, either accidentally or intentionally, also causing you to fail the test.
Field sobriety tests are designed for failure
Police officers count on drivers not knowing that they can say no to field sobriety tests and going through with them anyway. Many people fail field sobriety tests even if they are completely sober because they are nervous about being pulled over.
Remember that you have the right to simply refuse these tests. The police officers cannot make you take them.
Even knowing that you do not have to perform them, it is understandable if you go through with them anyway. Feeling intimidated or threatened by the presence of police officers is natural.
Attacking a DUI charge based on field sobriety tests
If your performance on the tests results in a DUI charge, there are many possible defenses available. This is especially true if your charge is based only on failing field sobriety tests.
Staying silent and asking for an attorney is your best next step. An experienced criminal defense attorney can analyze your situation and spot any potential weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, which can potentially result in a dismissed charge.