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Field sobriety tests are optional for good reason

As you drove home after having a couple of drinks with friends, you saw flashing blue and red lights in your rearview mirror. You may have wondered what you did to draw the attention of the police officer as you pulled over.

After asking the officer what you did, he or she may have noticed the smell of alcohol on your breath and asked you to step out of the vehicle. You don’t believe you are impaired, but the officer says to prove it by field sobriety tests. If this scenario ever happens to you, the following information could help you decide whether to do so.

There’s a reason field sobriety tests aren’t mandatory.

Contrary to what the officer will surely tell you, field sobriety tests are optional. You do not have to participate in them. In fact, in many cases, you shouldn’t. Why? Well, the fact is that even sober people can fail these tests. One of the biggest reasons for this is due to the conscious or unconscious biases of the officer. If he or she already believes you may be impaired, it isn’t a far leap to believe you failed the tests.

As you can imagine, these tests are highly subjective since they rely on the observations of an officer who may or may not have a preconceived bias. You may not believe you “swayed” or lost your balance, but the officer could say you did and claim you failed the test. In addition, if you suffer from any number of physical ailments or take some prescription or over-the-counter medications, it will likely influence your performance.

Police officers often pull out all the stops

When you politely tell the officer that you choose not to participate in field sobriety tests, they will more than likely attempt to convince you otherwise because your failure can provide an officer with the probable cause needed to arrest you. Therefore, they will often employ one or more of the following arguments:

  • Taking the tests would prove that you aren’t impaired.
  • You wouldn’t refuse if you have nothing to hide.
  • Taking the tests will prove you can drive home safely.
  • If you refuse, a jury will think you were impaired.
  • The law requires you to participate.

Don’t fall for these arguments. It is your right to choose whether or not you take these tests, and the evidence from them isn’t always admissible in court since these tests are notoriously unreliable. Of course, not participating in these tests may not prevent an arrest. The officer may rely on other alleged factors, such as the smell of alcohol, slurred speech and more for probable cause.

If you do end up under arrest for drunk driving, you may want to exercise your right to speak with a South Dakota criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. You have a higher chance of achieving the best possible outcome for your case when you begin working right away to protect your rights and explore all possible avenues for resolution.