When a police officer pulls you over, he or she may suspect you of drunk driving. Perhaps you had a drink on your way home and your breath smells like alcohol. Maybe you were weaving or forgot to use a turn signal. Regardless of the reason why the officer pulled you over, you now face a decision — should you participate in field sobriety tests.

First, you need to know that you are not legally obligated to participate since the tests do not fall under the implied consent law. More than likely, it wouldn’t be in your best interest to do so. Most departments use the same tests, and if you look at what officers look for, you can see why it may not be a good idea to participate in them.

The problems with the walk and turn test

This test requires you to take nine steps while touching the heel of one foot to the toe of the other. You then turn around and walk back in the same way. This seems simple enough, but you could fall victim to the following pitfalls:

  • The officer looks to see if you follow the instructions.
  • You can’t stop to regain your balance during the test.
  • You must take the right number of steps.
  • You must complete the test in a straight line.
  • You can’t use your arms for balance.
  • You must turn on one foot after taking the first nine steps.

Any number of things could cause you to fail this test. Nervousness, an inner ear infection, ambient noise or other physical issues could result in failure of this test. If you do have a condition that would make this test difficult, you could tell the officer about it, but that probably won’t stop the test unless you decide not to participate.

The problems with the horizontal gaze nystagmus test

Because you can’t control the movement of your eyes, many people believe this test is always right. However, that isn’t always the case. Some people suffer from vision issues that would make it appear as though they are impaired when they are not.

Most people’s eye movements are smooth until they reach a certain point. An intoxicated individual’s eyes will jerk well before that point and movement is often exaggerated. If your eyes fail to respond the way the officer expects, you could fail this test.

The problems with the one-leg stand test

The one-leg stand test requires you to stand on one leg while counting out 30 seconds. The obvious pitfalls of this test include balance issues. The officer looks for the following:

  • You can’t put your foot down before the completion of the test.
  • You can’t use your arms for balance.
  • Your body can’t sway.
  • You can’t hop in order to keep your balance.

Many people fail this test for obvious reasons. If you happen to have an injury, a balance issue or weak legs, you probably wouldn’t complete the test without doing one or more of the above.

The problems with the officer’s objectivity

Another issue is that the officer already suspects you of drunk driving. As such, he or she may unconsciously or consciously fail you based on those preconceived notions. Many would say the better option would be to politely tell the officer that you don’t want to take the tests. Even though refusing to participate in these tests may not keep you from an arrest, it does prevent you from providing probable cause for the arrest and evidence against you.