Flashing lights in your rearview mirror can send you on a panicked spiral where you start to question everything you did before right now. As the officer approaches your vehicle, you may be reciting to yourself where you were, where you are going and how many drinks you had.
The panic continues as the officer asks you to step out of your car so you can perform a field sobriety test. While you may have seen them on TV, you may not know what to expect when you are suspected of drunk driving.
Here’s what you can expect when an officer asks you to perform a field sobriety test.
There are three types
When the officer gets to your car, they will assess whether they think you were drinking and driving. By the time they make their assessment, most officers are reasonably confident about what will happen during a field sobriety test. The tests they may include:
- Walk-and-turn test. The officer will ask you to walk a certain number of steps toe-to-toe, turn around and come back the same way. They will look for whether you can follow the directions and how well you accomplish the task.
- One-leg stand test. For this test, the officer will ask you to raise one foot about six inches above the ground and count slowly until they tell you to stop. Like the walk-and-turn test, officers are looking at how you complete the test and whether you can follow the directions.
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus. Rather than testing your balance, this test allows the officer to observe a natural reflex in your eye that tends to indicate you have been drinking. The officer will ask you to follow an object like a flashlight with your eyes while they watch for an involuntary jerk in your eye.
Field sobriety tests can be challenging for sober and drunk people alike, so they are not always accurate.
Field sobriety tests are not required
You do not have to agree to take a field sobriety test. However, declining a field sobriety test does not mean the officer will not arrest you.
If you refuse to take a field sobriety test, the officer will likely arrest you and require you to submit to blood, breath or urine testing to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC) level and whether they can pursue DUI charges.
Drunk driving charges can have a serious impact on your life and your future. It is essential to talk to a knowledgeable professional about the charges against you.