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DWI: Do you have to take a field sobriety test?

| Sep 16, 2020 | Uncategorized

Working in New Hampshire typically includes commuting to and from the workplace by motor vehicle. If you work at a local university or office place, you are undoubtedly no stranger to bumper-to-bumper traffic. You may also often see police officers making traffic stops. If you happen to be one of the drivers a patrol officer decides to stop, there are a few things you should know ahead of time.

This is especially true in situations where a police officer asks you to step out of your vehicle. Police don’t usually do this because they simply want to have a friendly chat. More often than not, if an officer makes this request, he or she suspects you of DWI. After exiting your vehicle, the officer might ask you to take a field sobriety test.

There is more than one kind of field sobriety test

If a New Hampshire police officer suspects that you’ve been operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, he or she may ask you to take a field sobriety test in order to determine if there is probable cause to make an arrest. The following list shows the three most common types of field tests that police use for this purpose:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus: The name of this particular test might be challenging to pronounce or spell, but it is simply an eye test where a police officer observes your eyeball movement while you track an object from left to right or vertically without moving your head. A common side effect of intoxication is that eyeballs will jerk erratically when tracking objects before reaching maximum peripheral vision points.
  • One-leg stance: If you’ve always been a clumsy person, this test might prove difficult for you. The officer administering the test may ask you to stand on one leg while tilting your head toward the sky and counting out loud by the 100s or 1000s, and you might have to remain in that position for at least 30 seconds, which can seem like a lifetime in such circumstances.
  • Walk-and-turn: This is another test to measure your balance and agility skills, as well as your ability to understand and carry out a series of instructions. To complete the test, a patrol officer might ask you to walk a straight line while holding your arms extended at shoulder length and placing the heel of each foot at the toe of the other as you walk.

It’s understandable that you might feel nervous or stressed during a traffic stop, which might mean that you would not perform well on a field sobriety test. The problem with that is that the administering police officer might fail you, which would constitute probable cause to make a drunk driving arrest.

Know your rights and how to exercise them

You may be surprised to learn that you can undergo a drunk driving arrest without ever having consumed alcohol. It has happened to many people in the past. It is important to remember that you are not under obligation to take a field sobriety test. There are no legal or administrative repercussions for refusing to comply.

Most New Hampshire drivers typically submit to such tests, thinking it is best to cooperate with a police officer as much as possible during a traffic stop. Facing a DWI arrest doesn’t necessarily mean you will also face conviction if your case goes to trial. Knowing where to seek legal support is the first step toward protecting your rights and obtaining the most positive outcome possible.