Field Sobriety Tests

Should I Take the Field Sobriety Tests if I get Pulled Over for Drunk Driving?

You may always refuse to take the tests in Maryland. Such a refusal carries no administrative or criminal penalties. However, whether you should submit to roadside sobriety tests depends on your situation.

I had a Little Bit to Drink. Should I Take the Tests?

Probably not. As Hanover DUI attorneys know, field sobriety tests are effectively designed to flunk all but the most coordinated and graceful. The police administer field sobriety tests at the side of the road, frequently in the dark, and in all kinds of weather. You probably already feel nervous and uncertain or even a bit panicky because they pulled you over in the first place, and you may find it very difficult to perform unfamiliar tests of coordination under intense police scrutiny. Standard tests include:

  • The One-Leg Stand: The suspect should raise one foot six inches off the ground, keeping it parallel to the ground. He should stand with his hands at his side and count slowly to 30. Officers assess points if the suspect starts to sway, stops too early, uses his arms for balance, or puts his foot back on the ground.
  • Walk-and-Turn Test: The suspect must stand heel to toe while the officer explains the tests, then walk nine paces on a straight line while looking at her feet and counting out loud, complete a four-step turn, and walk back nine steps heel to toe. Police assess points for not staying on the line, not walking heel to toe, using hands for balance, performing an incomplete or incorrect turn, and swaying back and forth.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: The officer observes the ability of the suspect to track an object moving horizontally. The extent to which the eyes of the suspect jerk and where the jerkiness begins are supposed to allow the officer to roughly estimate the suspect’s blood alcohol content (BAC).
I had a lot to Drink. Should I Take the Field Tests?

No. If you have had so much to drink—and be honest with yourself here—that your intoxication would be obvious to any competent observer, opt out. You do not have to perform the tests and give the State more evidence against you. The officer will most likely take you back to the police station to administer the breathalyzer test anyway.

I Have not had Anything to Drink all Week. Should I Take the Field Tests?

An experienced police officer will know from speaking with you and observing you that you are not intoxicated, and will not ask you to take the tests. But not all police officers are experienced, so your officer might ask you to take the field sobriety tests despite being stone cold sober. Do whatever you want: in the worst-case scenario—you take the tests but demonstrate extreme clumsiness, or you opt not to take the tests but the police officer arrests you anyway—you will end up at the police station, where you can submit to breath, blood, or urine testing and prove once and for all that you have no alcohol in your system.

Arrested after a stop? Get help as fast as you can

Hartel, DeSantis & Howie LLP has almost 40 years of combined experience defending drivers arrested for DWI or DUI in the Hanover, Annapolis, and College Park area. Their attorneys know how to work with you, police, prosecutors, and judges to minimize fines, jail time, and license suspension or revocation.

By Michael A. DeSantis | Published September 5, 2012