The theory behind field sobriety tests is that they help police officers determine whether a driver is impaired. While there is some merit to this contention, these tests remain controversial for a variety of reasons, one of which is the fact that they are not 100% effective. People who have not had even one drink could fail these tests, so if you have had even one beer, glass of wine or shot of liquor, your chances of “passing” them drops even further.
What is the primary reason field sobriety tests are controversial?
The number one reason many people say these tests do not work is because they are subjective. The opinions and biases of the officer administering the tests play a significant role in whether you will pass or fail. Even though they go through the same training, officers will have differing opinions on whether you sufficiently maintained your balance during the testing or not.
You also have to consider that the officer’s opinion of you is already working against you. He or she would not have asked you to participate in the tests without already suspecting you of driving while impaired. Because the officer has already formed some opinion of you, whether consciously or unconsciously, that opinion will affect how the officer “grades” your performance.
So, what are your options?
Fortunately, you are not legally obligated to participate in field sobriety tests. If that shocks you, you are not alone. Police officers will not tell you that you can legally decline, but it would probably be in your best interests not to participate in the tests. You have nothing to lose by politely declining, but you may have a lot to lose if you do and you fail. Even if you are completely sober, it’s not a good idea. The officer could still arrest you, but at least it will not be because you failed these tests.
If you did participate
If you went ahead and participated in field sobriety tests because you didn’t know you could decline, and the officer arrested you, you still have hope. You may challenge the validity of the tests in a variety of ways. You could contest the testing conditions, the training of the officer and more. The problem is you may not know where to begin in order to do so. If you find yourself in this situation, you will probably greatly benefit from discussing your situation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.