It can happen to anyone. You went out with your friends for the night, had a good time and you are on your way home. The 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, do not panic. You need to know you have the right to refuse taking such tests. They are completely voluntary. Sometimes nervousness can cause people to fail these field sobriety tests. You don't want to run the risk of agreeing to something that might not turn out so 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 participate in the tests, here is what to expect. The most common tests are: Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), Walk-and-Turn, 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 1970's, there have been numerous studies done about their effectiveness. In these studies, many sober people take these 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 also. A refusal will likely result in a civil infraction as well as a small fine. It will not lead to any points being added to your diver's license. A refusal also will not provide potential harmful evidence against you, i.e., a .05, .06, or .07 BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) 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 you can request a copy of our book "Guilty Until Proven Innocent".