The field sobriety tests are tool law enforcement uses to collect evidence against a suspected drunk driver. They are a standardized series of tests and procedures that are used to collect clues about a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle.
The standardized field sobriety test (SFFT) or also called the field sobriety tests (FST) are performed to establish probable cause to arrest a driver suspected of driving under the influence or driving while impaired.
Are You Required to take the Field Sobriety Tests?
Drivers are not required to take the field sobriety test and taking them will only provide additional evidence at the trial date. There are no administrative penalty for refusing to take the roadside tests.
How do the field sobriety test get used?
When a police officer or law enforcement detects or sees a driver they suspect is impaired, that officer will typically elect to ask the driver to perform the field sobriety test. In Maryland, there is no penalty or adverse consequences for refusing to take the field sobriety tests.
What really happens if I don’t take the field sobriety test?
If a driver refuses to submit to the field sobriety test then the police officer must establish probable cause from other clues to make an arrest for drunk driving (DUI or DWI).
What are other possible clues a police officer could use to arrest for drunk driving?
From the moment the police officer observes the vehicle he or she is collecting clues or evidence that may be used at the subsequent trial date. Some of the clues that a police officer may observe and use are speeding, negligent driving, reckless driving, swerving, crossing over the center line, crossing over the dotted line multiple times or any other abnormal driving habits or behavior.
While not every driver that exhibits these signs is impaired or under the influence of alcohol, if the officer detects the odor of alcohol upon the stop, it will be used against the driver in court.
What happens after a police officer stops a driver suspected of drunk driving?
After the police officer conducts a lawful traffic stop, the officer will approach the vehicle. If the driver rolls down their window then the police officer will be able to detect any odors emanating from within the vehicle. Police officers are trained to detect certain smells such as alcohol or the odor of marijuana.
If the officer detects the odor of alcohol and marijuana then they will likely proceed with a further investigation to determine if the driver is impaired.
Typically, the officer will now ask for the driver’s license and registration. The police officer is observing the driver to determine if their motor skills are impaired. The officer will watch for a driver that has trouble finding their license or cannot ascertain the registration while the officer can clearly see the driver passing over it in the glove box.
The officer is also making audio observations as it relates to the speech pattern.
Does my speech patterns affect an officer’s determination of impairment?
Police officers are looking and listening for drivers that may have slowed or slurred speech. If a driver exhibits slurred speech while speaking with the officer, this is another clue that he will note in his report and use as evidence to establish probable cause to make an arrest.
The officer is also going to look at the driver’s physical attributes.
Can the officer tell if I’m drunk based on other factors?
Police officers will also make notes as to the drivers facial expressions and their skin conditions. If the driver’s eyes are glassy or watery, this may be a clue that the officer may use to establish a reason for an arrest.
The officer will also look to the drivers skin to see if the driver is flush face which is often times and indication of the effects of alcohol.
The officer will ask you to step out of the vehicle
A law enforcement officer must establish probable cause to request that an individual submit to the field sobriety test. If the police officer lacks probable cause, this may be grounds to challenge the stop and subsequent request to perform the tests.
The officer will ask an individual to step out of the vehicle and this may provide additional Clues to the police officer as to the driver’s level of impairment.
If the driver has trouble taking off their seatbelt or stumbles, falls or staggers while exiting the vehicle, the police officer will certainly know this in the report. The police will also notice if the driver uses the side of the vehicle for balance or stability while approaching the rear of the vehicle to perform the tests.
Where are field sobriety test performed?
Most feels right tests are performed on the roadside for the location of the traffic stop. In extreme situations, when the weather is not permitting, such as is raining too hard, police officer may give the driver an option to perform the test at a police station or under a local covered area. It has been seen in the past that police officers will allow drivers to perform the field sobriety test under the canopy of a bank drive-thru or are there covered business location.
What are the field sobriety tests?
The field sobriety test typically consists of three separate tests.
HGN Field Test
The first test is called the horizontal gaze nystagmus. Police officer will direct the individual to follow their finger, a pin tip or a light while standing still. The driver is required to only move their eyes and not their head during the test.
Walk and Turn Test
The second test is typically performed is called the walk in turn test. Walk in turn test consist of the driver standing heel to toe, taking 9 steps heel to toe in a straight line, typically an imaginary line. Making a turn upon the completion of the first nine steps, and then returning down the same imaginary line making the same 9 steps.
A police officer is looking for signs of impairment by the driver using their arms for balance or falling off the line or as well as not touching heel-to-toe.
One Leg Stand Test
The final test that the police officer will typically offer is called the one leg stand. The police officer will direct the driver to stand with her feet together, hands by their side and to raise one foot 6 inches off the ground. The driver is been required the count to 30, 1001, 1002 and so on until they reach 30 seconds.
The law enforcement officer is looking for clues such as the driver raising their arms for balance, swing, or swaggering.
What happens if I pass the field sobriety test?
If a police officer believes or they lack probable cause to make an arrest based on the field sobriety test then the officer will often times offer a preliminary breath test. Preliminary breath tests are not admissible in Maryland, and are used to determine if an individual is actually impaired if their tests were favorable.
Typically, if a police officer is requesting an individual to take the field sobriety test, then they’ve already made up their mind and suspect that the driver is impaired under the influence of drugs or another substance.
Why you shouldn’t take the field sobriety tests
By taking the field sobriety test you’re only giving the police and the state more evidence to use against you in court. Since refusing a tests do not penalize you, then there is no reason to take them.
Individuals that take the field sobriety test are risking but the state will have additional evidence and information to use against them at trial. Even if an individual refuses to take the test, the state will have less evidence and facts to use at trial.
DUI lawyers in Maryland
If you’ve been arrested for driving while impaired or driving under the influence and you took the field sobriety test or you refuse to take this feels right test, contact are Maryland DUI lawyer Randolph rice today to discuss your options and possible defenses at trial.