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Photo of Ian F. Mann

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Why you should think twice about taking field sobriety tests

Spending time with family or friends at your favorite restaurant or other hang out may be the highlight of your day. You sit back, relax, eat some good food and may even have a couple of drinks. When you are ready to head home, you take a moment to make sure you feel able to drive home safely. Confident that you are, you get behind the wheel and head out.

When you see flashing lights and sirens in your rearview mirror, your heart skips a beat, even if believe you haven’t done anything wrong. If the patrol car simply passes you by when you pull aside, you may breathe a sigh of relief. However, if it stops behind you, it could cause you to wonder whether you made the right decision to drive.

How do you handle a request to take a field sobriety test?

If the officer suspects you of drinking and driving, he or she may ask you to participate in field sobriety tests. You may want to stop and consider the information below before agreeing:

  • The law does not require you to participate in field sobriety tests.
  • Field sobriety tests rely on the observations of the police officer administering them.
  • The officer’s bias plays a large role in whether you “pass” or “fail” these tests.
  • The fact that the tests are so subjective makes them problematic at best.
  • Even sober people fail field sobriety tests due to a variety of factors, such as the officer’s bias, environmental conditions, health problems and more.

As you can imagine, it may not be in your best interests to participate in field sobriety tests, especially since you don’t have to do so. The officer may still arrest you based on other alleged evidence of your impairment. Even so, at least you aren’t giving the officer more probable cause to make the arrest by failing the field sobriety tests.

How do you respond to the officer’s request?

If you decide not to participate in field sobriety tests as requested by the officer, he or she may try to change your mind by making one or more of the following statements:

  • If you were innocent, you would participate in the tests.
  • Taking the tests would prove to me that you aren’t impaired.
  • The law requires you to take these tests.
  • Taking the tests would let me know you are able to drive home safely.
  • If you refuse to take the tests, a jury will think you are guilty.

You don’t have to give in to the officer regardless of what he or she says. As long as you are calm and polite when you answer, you can continue to decline. If you still end up under arrest, your next best step would be to contact a Florida criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights.


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