Should I perform the Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)?

If you are pulled over and the police officer suspects you may be intoxicated, they may ask you to perform an FST.  These tests require participants to perform a series of simple physical tasks during which the officer will look for signs of impairment, such as compromised balance, depth perception, reaction time and other factors.  Common FSTs include walking in a straight line, or balancing on one leg for thirty seconds.

FSTs are notoriously difficult to successfully complete, and police officers expect an extremely high level of accuracy to warrant a passing grade.  In fact, a police officer will ask you to perform an FST for no other reason than to establish reasonable suspicion to arrest you and require a chemical test of your blood alcohol content (BAC).  In most cases, an FST is set up to ensure your failure, and in general, you should refuse to perform these tests.  They are entirely subjective, and the findings will only be used in court to support the prosecutions case against you.  You stand to gain little from submitting to an FST, but potentially lose much.

Even if you are completely sober and confident that you could perform the test satisfactorily, circumstances beyond your control may affect your results.  FSTs are usually performed in extremely high stress situations.  Often on the side of busy roads, test takers can be distracted or startled by bright lights, loud noises or other external occurrences.  These distractions may cause you to loose balance or focus, or otherwise make a mistake.  Even a minute stutter in speech during one of these tests will be incorporated in points against you.  The observing officer may attribute any misstep made on the part of the test taker to alcohol impairment, resulting in arrest and further chemical testing at the police station.

Even if you manage to pass an FST, the officer may choose to arrest you anyways based on other criteria (such as erratic driving or behavioral cues).  An FST is by no means a quick way to avoid arrest.  More likely than not, the FST will be used to bolster the officer’s claims that your arrest was warranted.

You are under no obligation to submit to a FST, and the officer is aware of this fact.  Refusal to submit to the test cannot be held against you, and when asked to perform the test, it’s a safer bet to opt out.

Posted in: DUI