If you've been pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving and a police officer gives you the chance to take a field sobriety test to prove that you're sober enough to drive, should you do it?
Probably not, especially if you're older, tired, hungry, happen to be wearing heels or have any other problem that could affect your balance and coordination. Here is what you should understand about field sobriety tests.
-- The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is one of the three main tests used to measure sobriety. Officers ask suspects to follow a penlight with just their eyes. Those who are intoxicated are likely to have "jumpy" eye movements.
Unfortunately, so can anyone who has a migraine headache, someone who is simply fatigued after a long day at work, people with vitamin B deficiencies and anyone who is simply easily distracted by the noise and lights of passing vehicles.
-- The second test used asks people to stand with one foot in front of the other and walk heel to toe for a certain number of steps, pivot and walk back the same way. You have to keep your arms at your side, can't leave a gap of more than six inches between your feet and need to keep to a straight line.
There are a lot of people who are simply physically incapable of performing the test. In general, age tends to make people less-than-agile and many people slowly develop balance problems as they pass their 40's. Even younger people can have significant trouble with this test however. Anyone with an ear infection can have balance problems that would make the task impossible and a woman trying to balance that way in stiletto heels might actually topple over.
-- The final test asks the person to stand on one leg, with the other bend at 90 degrees, balancing for at least 30 seconds or so.
Again, all of the same problems that could wreck havoc on a driver during the first two tests could cause considerable problems with this test as well. So could simple lower-body weakness or a sedentary lifestyle.
Most experts recommend that unless your jurisdiction mandates that you comply with roadside sobriety tests that you politely decline and ask for your attorney instead.
To learn more about field sobriety tests, please take a look at our web pages on the topic.