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Drunk driving: Tests police use to determine probable cause

When you're driving along a New York highway, a police officer might attempt to pull you over in a traffic stop. Such situations can immediately cause your heart to beat faster and blood pressure to rise, especially if you have no idea why he or she is stopping you. If the police officer who approaches your vehicle asks you to take a field sobriety test, you can bet he or she thinks you're an impaired driver.

Talk about high levels of stress. If you happen to be the type of person who has severe test anxiety, then a request to take a field sobriety test would likely cause you great distress. There are several things you should know about such tests, including the fact that you are not legally obligated to comply with an officer's request to take one.

Police typically use these three tests

There can be a high rate of inaccuracy when it comes to field sobriety tests. Remember, failing one of these tests doesn't prove you are intoxicated, but a police officer can use the failure as probable cause to make an arrest. The following list shows the three tests police most often use:

  • If an officer asks you to take a walk-and-turn test, he or she plans on making several observations. First, a goal of the test is to determine how well you understand and can follow a series of simple instructions, and also whether you're able to walk a straight line by placing the heel of one foot at the toe of the other while holding your arms out at shoulder length.
  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus test, on the other hand, is an eye test. The point of the test is not to check your vision as much as to observe whether your eyeballs shake erratically before they have reached your maximum peripheral vision point as you track an object by moving your eyes, not your head.
  • Standing on one leg is another field sobriety test a New York police officer might use to determine if there's probable cause to arrest you for suspected drunk driving. If you wobble, put your foot in the air back on the ground or hop around to try to maintain balance, you will no doubt fail the test.

There are several problems with such tests. One is that the police officer's personal interpretation of the events significantly affects the results of your test. Also, you might have a pre-existing condition that prevents you from performing well. For instance, perhaps you had a past injury that impedes your ability to balance on one leg.

Maybe you have an eye condition that already affects your peripheral vision. Even sober people can fail field sobriety tests. If the officer who has administered your test winds up taking you into custody, things are likely to get a lot worse before they get better.

Facing DUI charges in New York

Penalties under conviction of drunk driving can be severe. You may not think that a sober person could ever face DUI charges; however, it has happened many times in the past. If it's not the first time you've faced DUI charges, you'll have your work cut out to try to mitigate your circumstances. This is why it's critical that you know your rights and how to protect them in court.

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