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What are field sobriety tests and do you have to take them?

On Behalf of | Jun 26, 2024 | DUI/DWI

Being stopped by the police while driving can be a worrying experience. Whether you think you have done anything wrong or not, you may still worry you could end up in jail or with a hefty fine.

Your concerns may grow if the police may ask you to get out of the car and complete some tests for them, known as field sobriety tests (although they might not refer to them as that).

There are only three field sobriety tests officers should be using

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) only recognizes three field sobriety tests. These are:

  1. Following a pen, light, finger or other object the officer holds up in front of you with your eyes
  2. Walking heel to toe along a straight line, turning around and coming back again
  3. Standing on one leg, with the other raised 6 inches off the ground for 30 seconds

If you were to try any of those tests right now, in the comfort of your own home, you might not pass for a variety of reasons. Nerves could be one reason, misunderstanding exactly what you are meant to do is another. A disability or a prescription medication you take could also cause you to fail. So, while the NHTSA believes the combined results are fairly accurate, it does not claim they are always correct.

Do I have to take these tests?

Fortunately, you do not have to take these tests and a court cannot penalize you for refusing.  So, it is better to politely refuse if the police ask you to perform them. If, however, they arrest you and ask you to take a chemical test, such as a breathalyzer or blood test, then you are required to comply, and refusing will have penalties.

It can be hard to remember your rights when the police stop or arrest you. Seeking prompt legal guidance can help.