When a police officer pulls you over for suspicion of driving under the influence, they will ask you to perform field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests evaluate balance, agility and attention in drivers when officers suspect intoxication.
While most drivers are familiar with the tests they may face at that moment thanks to movies and television shows, most drivers do not realize that they have the right to refuse to submit to the tests. When pulled over, you must show your license and registration. You are not required to do anything else.
Types of testing
There are three main field sobriety tests officers may ask you to perform. Standing on one leg will test your balance. Walking in a straight line and turning on one foot to walk back will test your ability to complete tasks with divided attention. When the officer holds a finger or small object in front of your face and asks you to track it as they move it slowly from side to side, the officer is watching for exaggerated jerking in your eye as it moves.
Depending on the results of those tests, officers may ask you to submit to testing of your blood, breath, or urine. These tests can confirm alcohol levels. A blood sample will require your consent or a warrant.
Why you may refuse
The results of any of these tests will only hurt you. You are not obligated to incriminate yourself. You are also not required to answer questions about where you have been or what you may have consumed. You have the right to protect yourself against self-incrimination.
In most cases, when the officer asks you to submit to these tests, they are already planning to arrest you. Submitting to the tests will only help them, not you. If you decline to submit to testing, do so politely and respectfully. Be cooperative if arrested.
Field sobriety tests are not infallible or scientific. A sober person can fail them. As described above, each test evaluates the physical control a person has over their body, as lack of control is often an indication of intoxication. People with physical disabilities or illnesses that affect balance or eye control can fail the tests while completely sober.