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3 things you should know about field sobriety tests

On Behalf of | Jun 1, 2022 | Criminal Defense

If a New Hampshire police officer asks you to step out of your car after pulling you over in a traffic stop, there’s a good chance that he or she suspects you of drunk driving. You are, in fact, obligated to exit your vehicle if a patrol officer tells you to do so. If, however, the officer’s next request is to take a field sobriety test, there are several things you should know in order to protect your rights, if you wind up in custody.

It’s always best to try to remain calm and to be cooperative during a traffic stop. Soon after approaching your vehicle, the police officer should provide the specific reason for the stop. He or she may also ask you to provide proof of vehicle registration and insurance. If you’re asked to exit your vehicle and take a sobriety test, that’s when the situation may become stressful.

Here’s what a police officer is looking for when you take a field sobriety test

There are several types of field sobriety tests, including a horizontal gaze nystagmus test (which is an eye test), as well as a one-leg stance or walk-and-turn test. The following list includes basic information about the observations a police officer might be making as you perform one of these tests:

  • In a horizontal gaze nystagmus test, a police officer is watching your eyes as you track an object from left to right or up and down without moving your head, and checking for erratic jerking movements, which are often present in intoxicated people.
  • A patrol officer will also measure your ability to follow a series of simple instructions.
  • The officer will closely observe your physical coordination while you take a field sobriety test.

It’s important to understand that a police officer’s personal interpretation of events plays a large part in whether you pass or fail a field sobriety test. If you fail, it constitutes probable cause for the police officer to arrest you for suspected drunk driving.

You’re not obligated to comply if a police officer requests a field sobriety test

Being cooperative during a traffic stop is typically to a driver’s advantage. However, to be fully aware of your rights, you should know that you’re under no obligation to comply if a police officer asks you to take a field sobriety test during a traffic stop. There are no legal or administrative penalties for refusing.

Not taking a field sobriety test in no way guarantees that you will not face arrest for suspected drunk driving. If you wind up facing DUI charges in court, prosecutors may tell the court that you refused to take a field sobriety test as part of their effort to incriminate you.

You are guaranteed an opportunity to refute DUI charges in court

You might determine that it’s best to take a field sobriety test when asked to do so during a traffic stop. You might decide to refuse; the decision is yours. If an arrest takes place, you’re entitled to due process, which guarantees you an opportunity to present a defense in court. Many issues can affect the ultimate outcome of your case. For instance, it’s possible that you did not consume alcohol but have a past injury that impedes your coordination, which may have caused you to fail a field sobriety test.

Preparing a DUI defense can be stressful and challenging, which is why you’ll be glad to know that you don’t have to handle such situations on your own. Most New Hampshire drivers seek legal support soon after they police take them into custody.

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