It can happen to anyone. You went out with friends for the night, had a good time and are on your way home. Next thing you know, you see flashing lights in your rear-view mirror. You start to worry. You did have a few drinks, but that was hours ago. The officer asks you to get out of the car and perform field sobriety tests. What does that mean, and do you have to participate?
     First, don’t panic. You need to know you have the right to refuse taking such tests. They are completely voluntary, and sometimes nervousness can cause people to fail these tests. You don’t want to run the risk of agreeing to something that might not turn out well for you.
     Unless specifically requested to do so by the officer, don’t get out of the car. That said, either way I suggest politely declining to perform the sobriety tests. Ask, “If I have done something wrong, can you please write me a ticket?” 
     If you think you are OK, and agree to the tests, here’s what to expect. The most common tests are: Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), Walk-and-Turn, and One-Leg Stand. The HGN involves looking to see if there is involuntary bouncing or jerking of the eyeball. The walk-and-turn and one-leg stand check to see if the driver can listen to and follow instructions while performing simple physical movements.
     However, since these tests were established in the late 1970s, there have been numerous studies done about their effectiveness. In these studies, many sober people took the tests and failed! So, my advice to you, don’t leave it to chance. Decline to take the tests, and go from there.
     If the officer thinks you have failed any of these tests, he might try to administer a preliminary breath test (PBT) at the scene. In most cases, it is generally best to refuse this test, as well. A refusal will likely result in a civil infraction as well as a small fine, but it won’t lead to any points on your driver’s license. A refusal also will not provide potential harmful evidence against you, i.e., a .05, .06 or .07 BAC reading sometimes causes the officer to make an arrest, even though such evidence doesn't demonstrate that you're under the influence.
     These are just the basics. For more information, either download or pick up a copy of our book, “Guilty Until Proven Innocent.” Or, call (989) 773-3423, and we'll send you a free copy.

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