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Don't let police convince you to consent to field sobriety tests

It's the image many Florida residents have when it comes to DUI traffic stops -- someone on the side of the road trying to walk a straight line, standing on one leg or following a flashlight held by a police officer. Movies and television also make you believe that you must participate in these tests.

The truth is that you don't have to be that person on the side of the road. Legally, you don't have to participate, but that won't stop a police officer who suspects you of drunk driving from trying to convince you otherwise.

How police officers try to get you to comply

Field sobriety tests help police officers establish probable cause to arrest you. If you don't participate, it limits the "evidence" they have to do so. For this reason, they will often employ the strategies below to get you to participate in field sobriety tests:

  • The officer will attempt to convince you that you must participate in the tests under Florida law.
  • The officer will tell you that you should take the tests to convince him or her that you aren't drunk and can drive safely to your destination.
  • The officer may accuse you of having something to hide by not participating in the tests.
  • The officer will tell you that refusing to participate will convince a jury that you were drunk.
  • The officer will make you think that in order to prove your innocence you must take the tests.

When you decline to participate, make sure that you remain calm and polite. You may have to assert your right not to take the tests more than once. Even though you won't be providing the officer with additional probable cause for an arrest, that does not mean the officer will allow you to leave. You may still end up under arrest, but if the officer claims your arrest is the result of not participating in field sobriety tests, the arrest may not stand.

It may seem easier just to comply, but that may be a mistake. Sober people fail these tests more often than you would believe, and part of the reason for that is the subjectivity of the officer involved. The officer already suspects you of being impaired, and that suspicion may come through when you take the tests.

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