The sun hadn’t even set as you headed out to dinner. But the blue lights of the police car behind you struck fear in your heart. Chances are good the police officer is going to ask you to perform field sobriety tests. Should you comply?
Sober people can flunk field sobriety tests
There are three basic field sobriety tests that you will be asked to perform:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) – In this test, the officer will ask you to follow their finger or a penlight with your eyes. They are looking for a jerking pattern to your eyes that can indicate intoxication. But you could also fail the test for having amblyopia (“lazy eye”), which can make someone appear inebriated when they are stone-cold sober.
- One-legged stand – The police officer will direct you to stand on one foot, with the other approximately 6 inches off the ground for half a minute. There are so many possible conditions that could cause a driver not to be able to pass this field sobriety test that they are too numerous to list here.
- Walk-and-turn testing – Could you walk nine steps on a line, heel-to-toe, turn on one foot and then walk back? For many people, that task is impossible even with no alcohol. Add in high heels or cowboy boots, an uneven, sandy roadway often just inches from traffic whizzing by and it is evident why so many people fail these tests.
So, what should you do when asked to perform field sobriety tests?
You have the right to refuse
Politely refusing the test does not mean you will be free to go. It just means that you have not given the prosecution gift-wrapped evidence against you. Remain calm and assert your right to remain silent until you have spoken with your criminal defense attorney.