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Dysart Willis

Should I perform field sobriety tests?

The holiday driving season may be months away, but it is not uncommon for increased patrols in North Carolina during Halloween weekend. After all, the potential for more pedestrian traffic increases as little ghouls and goblins take to the streets in search of candy. The same could be said for adult "kids" who go to Halloween parties and have a few drinks.

Because of this, it should be expected that police will be out in force to keep drunk drivers off the road. For those who end up being stopped, they may face a question that they may not be prepared for: "could you do a few tests for me?"

Indeed, law enforcement officers generally have a genuine interest in keeping streets safe, but they may carry out their duties without regard for a driver's rights. Essentially, many people stopped on suspicion of drunk driving may not know that they have the right to decline the battery of field sobriety tests, which are given to establish probable cause for an arrest. There may even be a misconception that if one refuses to take the tests, they can be charged with a crime.

Drivers should remember that simply because they are asked to perform a field sobriety test, they are not legally required to do so. The tests are given to further an officer's suspicions so that he or she may establish probable cause to justify an arrest. Also, field sobriety tests should not be confused with chemical tests (blood, breath or urine) that are given after a DUI arrest. Post-arrest tests are legally required, and you will be charged with a crime for refusing one.