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Why you should avoid participating in field sobriety tests

After stopping off at the local hangout with your friends or co-workers, you head home. Perhaps you take a moment to consider whether you drank too much to safely drive home but determine after a self-assessment that you could.

On your way home, lights and sirens appear behind you, seemingly out of nowhere. You now wonder whether you were mistaken, but remain confident. As if on cue, the officer asks you to step out of the vehicle and participate in field sobriety tests. You've probably heard that you don't legally have to participate in these tests, but you may not be aware that there are other, more practical reasons for refusing to participate.

The bias and subjectivity of the police officer

The authorities may approve these tests, but they aren't really objective. They rely on the subjective observations of the officer. Consider the fact that the officer already suspects you of impairment. Just about any deviation during the tests could cause you to fail under these circumstances.

Subconsciously or consciously, the officer's mind may already be made regarding your intoxication. Right or wrong, his or her opinion determines the outcome of the tests. With all of this already going against you, you have no reason to cooperate in these tests. You can politely and calmly decline to participate with no legal repercussions.

Sober people fail these tests, too

Your age, physical condition and even illnesses can cause you to fail a field sobriety test. In fact, a substantial portion of those who take the test and fail had not even had one drink. For example, if you suffer from an inner ear infection, you may not be able to maintain your balance. Does that mean you are drunk? No, but it could land you in the back of a police car. Even an arrest could cause damage to your reputation and your employment.

You should know that politely refusing to take field sobriety tests may not keep you from an arrest. The officer may believe he or she has sufficient probable cause for the arrest without them. It is wise to contact an attorney if this occurs.

Don't fall for the officer's guilt trip

You also need to know that police officers will attempt to guilt or shame you into participating. He or she may insinuate that you only look guilty by not participating. The officer could appeal to your need to "prove" your innocence there on the side of the road. Don't fall for these tactics. The officer needs you to take the tests and "fail" in order to create a legal reason to arrest you.

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Anthony M. Salerno, P.C.
306 Main St.
Worcester, MA 01608

Phone: 508-795-1200
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