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When that beer after work turns into a DUI stop

After a long day at work, you may feel that few things are more refreshing and relaxing than a beer with friends. Afterward, you get into your car and head home. More than likely, you have done this more than once without incident. In fact, after just a drink or two, you are confident that you aren't intoxicated and can drive home safely.

Perhaps you committed some sort of traffic offense that brought your vehicle to the attention of a passing patrol car. The officer pulls you over and comes to your window and after a short conversation suspects you of drunk driving. The officer asks you to exit the vehicle, and it is at this point that you have some choices to make.

Should you take those tests?

Right there on the side of a Florida roadway, the officer may ask you to participate in field sobriety tests. These tests are designed to provide officers with the probable cause they need in order to make an arrest for driving under the influence. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration devised a set of three tests that it endorses as a way to determine whether a driver is impaired. Those tests include the following:

  • The one-leg stand test
  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus test
  • The walk-and-turn test

The officer will likely give you the impression that you are required to participate in these tests. You should know that this isn't the case. Legally, you don't have to take these tests. Furthermore, you don't have to submit to a roadside breath test either. However, you do have to submit to the evidentiary breath test given at the jail or police station. This is the one that conforms to the implied consent laws you agreed to when you received your driver's license.

Refusing to participate in the roadside tests may not keep the officer from placing you under arrest for DUI. However, it does deny the officer further "evidence" of your alleged intoxication that establishes probable cause for your arrest. If you choose to participate in these tests, you may want to know that people fail them all the time — even sober people. Physical or medical conditions, environmental factors and even your diet can cause you to "fail" field sobriety tests and cause false positives in roadside breath tests.

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