Field Sobriety Tests
If you have been pulled over for DUI, the police officer will ask you to perform some physical exercises at the side of the road called Field Sobriety Tests (FST’s). Practically speaking they include checking your eyes, making you walk a straight line and balancing on one foot. BE AWARE that you are NOT required to take these tests, but the officer will never tell you that fact! In most cases he will start by simply saying to you: “I need to check your eyes.” BE AWARE, that means he is about to do the first DUI test that will later be used against you in court. It is called the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test and you do not have to agree to do it. (See below for more facts about how the HGN test measures how much you have had to drink).
The other main tests utilized are called the Walk and Turn and One Leg Stand. Each of these tests is used to see whether you may be impaired by alcohol. Again, the officer WILL NOT tell you that you may refuse to take these tests. He will simply start to give you instructions. Unless someone is familiar with the tests, they will almost always fail them. The reason why is not because they are particularly difficult, but because the officer needs to only note two clues of impairment in order to fail you. These clues can be as minor as raising your hands up for a second or two while balancing on one leg, or not touching your toe by one inch while walking heel to toe.
Once the officer sees as few as two of these minor clues, while carefully observing you the entire time that you are doing the tests, he can consider that you have failed the tests and arrest you for suspicion of DUI.
Remember, he has done them thousands of times. You will be doing them in a nervous state, at the side of the road, wondering if you are about to be arrested. The deck is stacked against you! You have the right to calmly tell the officer that you are not comfortable taking the tests and/or that you are not drunk, or whatever else is true about your situation. Just remember, he is making notes about the odor of alcohol on your breath, whether you are slurring your words and your balance. Keep it simple, and always be polite.