Roadside Sobriety Tests: Do You Have To Take Them?
DO YOU HAVE TO TAKE A ROADSIDE SOBRIETY TEST?
Many people think they have to take a roadside sobriety test if they get pulled over for suspected DUI.
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Today I want to talk about a DUI issue involving what’s known as standard field sobriety tests or what you may know more commonly as roadside sobriety tests, roadside maneuvers, and how they play into a DUI arrest and prosecution, and whether or not you should submit to them.
ROADSIDE SOBRIETY TESTS ARE VOLUNTARY
So the two things to understand is that the roadside sobriety tests are voluntary.
That means you don’t have to do them. You don’t get dinged for not doing them.
It’s a different scenario than the chemical blood or breath test that measures the blood alcohol content. Different thing, different topic.
But just know that those roadside sobriety tests are voluntary.
THE ROADSIDE TEST DESIGNED TO MAKE YOU FAIL
Also, there are what’s called divided attention tests, which means they’re designed basically for you to fail them.
So the question I often get from people is, should I do the roadside sobriety tests? And obviously I can’t give you exact legal advice because it sort of depends, but in general, I would caution against it.
WHY THESE TESTS ARE A PROBLEM
It doesn’t take much to have a problem with those tests. I’ve seen people struggle with those tests who we find out later had no, didn’t even have a drop of alcohol, had nothing impairing their system.
And what’s so tricky about them is that the divided attention part of it means that they’re looking to see if you can remember the instructions and then if you can physically perform the maneuvers.
So what typically happens is an officer will, if they suspect a DUI, if they pull you over, they’ll say, hey, I want you to do some roadside tests to see if you’re safe to drive. They’re not trying to figure out if you’re safe to drive. They are now building a case.
About 95% of the time, once you’re out of that vehicle under suspicion of DUI, unless you’re going to blow zeros, they’re probably going to make an arrest.
And those roadside sobriety tests build information and evidence for them to backup the legality of that arrest.
So should you do them? I’d caution against it, especially if you’re concerned you won’t perform well on them because of physical limitations, and make sure you articulate that to the officer and say, hey, I’ve got some physical problems. I can’t do these tests.
IF YOU PLAN TO TAKE THE TEST
If you are going to do them, if you feel like your level of impairment is low, or you feel like you have a good shot of doing well on them, again, I would caution that law enforcement is going to write up a report and that report may not accurately reflect exactly what happened.
MAKE SURE YOU’RE ON VIDEO
So I would only do them in a situation where you’re going to be on video. Obviously the video can hurt you, but if you’re in a situation where you’re not going to perform well on them, you probably shouldn’t be doing them anyway.
If you’re in a situation where you think it’s worth performing those sobriety tests, ask the officer, do you have a body camera? Is there a dash cam camera?
And then you insist that you do those roadside sobriety tests in front of that camera.
Obviously, if you perform poorly, that will provide video evidence that you did. But I have had success several times with DUI cases where the officer’s report did not match what we actually saw on the video, affected the officer’s credibility and showed the jury and the judge this person did not perform poorly on these tests.
So if you are going to consider the roadside sobriety tests, I would suggest only doing it if you’re comfortable, if you don’t feel impaired, and if you know that there’s going to be some video evidence that can contradict any sort of mistake or exaggeration on the part of law enforcement.
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