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Understanding your rights regarding field sobriety tests

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Have you ever been driving somewhere when unexpected circumstances arise and you have to immediately change your plans for reaching your ultimate destination? For instance, perhaps you've been on a Louisiana road when you suddenly come upon detour signs. Having to change your route, especially if you're unfamiliar with the area, can be quite stressful.  

Another situation that can immediately cause stress levels to soar is a traffic stop. If you see a patrol car's red and blue lights flashing in your rearview mirror, you might go from feeling relaxed and enjoying a favorite song on your car radio to feeling your blood pressure skyrocket. If the police officer thinks you've been drinking, he or she may ask you to take field sobriety tests to determine if there's probable cause to arrest you.  

You do not have to comply 

One of the most important things to remember regarding field sobriety tests is that you don't have to take them. In fact, there are no legal repercussions for refusing and neither are there any administrative consequences like there can be under implied consent laws. Prosecutors often use the fact that someone refused a field sobriety test to their advantage in court, however.  

What police are looking for 

A police officer can pull you over for many reasons, but he or she must determine probable cause to arrest you. When conducting field sobriety tests, such as the one-leg stand test, horizontal gaze nystagmus test or the walk-and-turn test, police are checking to see how well you follow a simple series of instructions and also if you appear to be off-balance in your gait or seem cognitively impaired. 

Field sobriety tests are subjective 

While there are guidelines that most police officers follow when administering field sobriety tests, the results are definitely not objective. An officer's personal opinion weighs heavily toward whether or not you pass or fail. Field sobriety tests also cannot measure your blood alcohol content level. These tests basically amount to a police officer's personal observations and personal interpretation of your performance. 

Protect your rights 

If you believe a patrol officer violated your rights, you can take immediate steps to request a case dismissal. Rather than act alone, most motorists in this predicament reach out for experienced legal support before submitting their challenges to the court. Even if the court denies a request to dismiss, certain evidence may be deemed inadmissible.

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Craig E. Gibbs, Attorney at Law
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