Let's say you're driving down an Alabama road after enjoying dinner with friends at a local pub, when you suddenly notice a police patrol car attempting to pull you over. The last thing you need is another speeding ticket but you recognize the importance of immediately complying with the implied request of the red and blue flashing lights.
You realize things may be a lot worse than you'd imagined when a police officer approaches and asks you to step out of your vehicle. In your experience, you know this is not typically how an average traffic stop for driving over the speed limit pans out. You immediately feel worried because you remember that your fun evening out with friends included a few beers. When the officer asks you to take a field sobriety test, you're unsure how to respond. It's critical that you understand your rights and know how to access support.
The big three
Drunk driving laws in Alabama and other states may vary; however, most police officers use three basic field sobriety tests to determine if they have probable cause to arrest you for possible DUI.
The following list provides basic information about each test:
- A walk-and-turn test gives a police officer the chance to observe you as you attempt to travel a straight line, with arms outstretched as you place the heel of one foot at the toes of the other. The officer will also pay close attention to how well you follow his or her directions.
- Another form of observation police use to determine if they have probable cause to take you into custody if they suspect you are driving under the influence of alcohol is the one-leg stance. The officer may instruct you to balance on one leg while you count aloud by 100s or 1000s.
- You may also undergo an eye-movement test if you comply with an officer's request to take a horizontal gaze nystagmus test during a traffic stop. This test measures the point at which your eyeballs jerk erratically when tracking a moving object left to right or vertically, without using your head.
The problem is that such tests can prove quite challenging even for sober people. If you have always been a rather clumsy type of person, the walk-and-turn or one-leg stand tests might not go so well. You might also have a pre-existing condition that makes taking such tests difficult, such as a past auto accident injury or a health condition, such as diabetes or vision impairment.
Know your rights
You are not obligated to comply with an officer's request to take a field sobriety test. There are no legal or administrative repercussions for refusal. That is not to say that prosecutors will not use the fact that you refused against you in court because it is highly likely that they will. If an officer detains you, you can request legal representation. If the officer violates your rights at any time before, during or following an arrest, you can request a case dismissal.