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Should you participate in field sobriety tests? Probably not

Like other drivers here in Maryland, you may not have known that you have a choice whether to participate in field sobriety tests or not. Fortunately, the law does not require you to do so, and in many cases, you probably shouldn't. More than likely, it would do more harm than good.

Police officers will attempt to convince you to participate in these tests since they help them establish probable cause for an arrest. The problem is that these tests rely on the subjective opinion of the officer administering them, and if they are asking you to participate in these tests, they probably already think you are impaired. The fact is, the odds are not in your favor even if you are sober.

How might an officer try to convince you?

If you tell the officer that you respectfully decline to participate in field sobriety tests, he or she will most likely attempt to convince you otherwise. The officer will probably attempt to appeal to your natural inclination to defend yourself by posing the following:

  • If you participate in the tests, it will show the officer that he or she is wrong about you being impaired.
  • The officer may tell you that refusing to take the tests will make a jury think you are guilty.
  • He or she may ask you why you would refuse to participate if you don't have anything to hide.
  • The officer may attempt to convince you to take the tests in order to prove that you can drive home safely.

These arguments may seem compelling, but the officer is only attempting to get you to agree -- not for your sake, but for his or her sake. Even sober people fail these tests, and one of the primary reasons is that it is up to the officer to decide whether you passed or not.

Of course, other factors may contribute to the officer having probable cause for an arrest. For instance, if your eyes are bloodshot, you have slurred speech or your driving was erratic, it could provide enough "evidence" that you are impaired. Therefore, even if you politely decline to participate in field sobriety tests, you could find yourself under arrest for DUI. However, you did not help the officer by providing any additional support for the arrest.

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8808 Old Branch Avenue
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