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Should I submit to field sobriety tests?

If you get stopped for suspicion of drunk or impaired driving, you need to understand the potential consequences of any actions and admissions that you take or make. In some instances, how you comport yourself in the immediate aftermath of a DUI stop can determine whether you get arrested or are allowed to proceed on your way.

Think of it this way — if the officer asked you to provide him or her with evidence of your guilt, would you be eager to do so? Certainly not. Yet that's exactly what you do when you agree to participate in standardized field sobriety tests (SFST).

There are a variety of SFSTs that law enforcement officers can ask drivers to perform. Most are a combination of mental and physical tasks that require two separate skill sets to accomplish.

The police officer might ask you to stand on one leg on the side of the road, walk 10 steps heel-to-toe or follow the penlight with your eyes. He or she could might also ask you to recite the alphabet backward from a certain point.

The pitfalls of SFSTs

The fact is that any or all of the SFSTs can be difficult or impossible to pull off under optimal circumstances. Trying to balance on the side of a highway with cars and trucks whizzing by while a cop shouts rapid-fire instructions at you almost guarantees failure.

When the officer pulled you over, it's likely the encounter began with the question, "How much have you had to drink?" At that point, it's highly likely that the officer is just on a fishing expedition. He or she wants to see how you will respond to that provocative question.

If you answer, "Two beers," an amount that typically wouldn't impair a grown man, your answer tells the police officer that you are a person who will drink and drive. A small admission — but one that opens the door to further interactions with law enforcement.

To be clear, no one should ever lie to the police. They will likely catch your falsehood and use it to build a case against you. But you are also not compelled to answer their questions and provide them with tangible evidence of your alleged impairment.

Source: AAA, "Standardized Field Sobriety Test," accessed June 01, 2018

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