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Your right to refuse to perform DUI/OUI field sobriety tests

If you get stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI/OUI), the officer will typically ask you to perform one or more field sobriety tests (FSTs). Do you realize that you have the right to refuse to comply?

There are several good reasons for not agreeing to take part in these roadside sobriety tests. Let's examine a few of them.

The test conditions are often far from fair

Picture this: You're on the side of a very busy highway, with cars and trucks whizzing by at high speeds. You're upset and nervous, and now the officer is asking you to stand on one leg without wobbling while the gusts of wind from passing traffic buffet you.

On a good day when you're feeling relaxed at your yoga class, you still struggle with the one-legged "tree pose." It's highly unlikely you will do better on the side of the road under the officer's disapproving and suspicious stare.

Still other DUI suspects may suffer from arthritis or stability issues with their knees or ankles, all of which can adversely affect the ability to stand on one foot.

Your age and fitness level are major test factors

Are you over 40? Are you carrying more than a few extra pounds on your frame? If so, you should realize that these factors almost guarantee poorer performance on the one-leg stand (OLS) and walk-and-turn (WAT) tests.

A British study indicated that these tests were unfairly skewed to reflect poorly on older, less-fit drivers' performance.

Vision test results affected by many conditions

The officer may ask you to "follow his pen." The test is properly known as the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), but no officer will tell you the many visual and neurological conditions that could negatively affect your ability to "pass" this test. Some medications may also make it difficult to follow an object's path with your eyes.

Learning disorders also a factor

Were you ever diagnosed with either attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attention deficit disorder (ADD)? These two similar conditions could affect how well you are able to understand and follow the officer's instructions for any of the field sobriety tests to which you're requested to submit.

All FSTs are inherently subjective

Taking a field sobriety test is not like taking a math test where one plus one will always equal two. Instead of being objective measures of your exact level of sobriety, these tests are subjective. The officer's personal opinions, prejudices and feelings can influence the way he or she concludes whether you pass or fail these tests.

Don't hand the police and courts evidence against you

With all of these factors against you, it may be unwise to hand police and prosecutors a gift of evidence they will use to try to convict you on the charge of DUI or OUI.

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