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Field Sobriety Testing in Pennsylvania

If you are pulled over and the police suspect you of driving under the influence, they will request you to perform a field sobriety test. Common tests include walking a line in a heel-toe manner, standing on one foot while counting, and an eye nystagmus test which examines for erratic eye movements. These tests are designed, and the police request you to perform them, in order to establish probable cause to arrest you for driving under the influence.

Note above that the test is being administered because the police suspect you of driving while intoxicated. This belief that you are intoxicated while driving creates a prejudice that carries over into the testing itself. This has a great effect on the result as field sobriety tests are far more subjective than scientific. For these reasons, if you agree to perform a field sobriety test, you will almost certainly fail. Moreover, if you fail one or more aspects of the testing, the police will assert probable cause to arrest you for driving under the influence (DUI). Once you are arrested, the police will request that you undergo blood or breath testing, and if you refuse to give blood or breath after your arrest, your license will likely be suspended for a year. Even worse, this year-long suspension can be added on top of other suspensions you may receive from your other charges, such as for DUI.

While you will face stiff consequences for refusing blood or breath following a DUI arrest, most people do not know that you likely cannot be criminally charged or prosecuted for politely refusing to perform field sobriety testing. Politely declining a field sobriety test can deprive the police of evidence that could be used to assert probable cause for your arrest. You also have a right under the 5th amendment to politely decline to answer questions by the officer. If you choose to decline to answer the officer's questions, such as where you were and whether you had anything to drink, you are depriving the officer of testimony that could later be used against you. In most instances, if you admit that you have had anything to drink then you will be asked to perform field sobriety testing.

Principally, if you decline to perform field sobriety testing there should be no negative repercussions for your choice, provided that you are courteous in your interaction with the officer and in your refusal. It should be known that a refusal to take perform field sobriety testing may be presented to a jury with the contention that you refused to perform the tests because of your own awareness that you were intoxicated. Nonetheless, this is not sufficient cause to compel you to consent to field sobriety testing if your blood alcohol level is over the legal limit.

Again, while you have every right to refuse a field sobriety test, refusing to give blood or breath will likely result in a one-year license suspension. Whether you should refuse blood or breath is a complex issue. Generally, if are likely intoxicated and if the consequences of your DUI would be far more serious than a one-year license suspension, then you should consider refusing to give blood or breath as well as refuse all field sobriety testing and immediately exercise your right to remain silent. For instance, if someone perished or was seriously injured in an accident that you were involved in as an intoxicated driver, field sobriety testing and blood/breath testing may make a conviction and a jail sentence of years, not months, a foregone conclusion.

We hope this analysis was helpful to clarify your understanding of DUI stops. And paramount above all of the statements in this article, the best way to ensure that you are never convicted of a DUI or other more serious related offense is: DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE and DON'T TAKE DRUGS AND DRIVE. Obey the law for the safety of others and for your own safety as well!

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