Try this: Stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground and remain as still as possible for 30 seconds. Did you have any trouble keeping your balance?
Next, walk slowly in a straight line, putting one foot in front of the other, touching your heel to your toe with each step. Any wobbling going on?
You no doubt see where this is going. These two exercises are part of the standard field sobriety test (SFST) that Michigan police and law enforcement authorities nationwide perform during traffic stops to determine if a driver is impaired. You may be perfectly sober in the middle of a work day and in the comfort of your office – not on a noisy, gravely roadside – and still struggle to complete these exercises perfectly. The fact is, these are not natural skills for the average person.
Many argue the SFST, which was developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the 1970s, is designed to be failed.
Field Sobriety Tests Are Not Mandatory
Michigan law does not require motorists to take roadside field sobriety tests if asked to do so. In fact, it is widely felt that police officers know whether they plan to arrest a motorist for impaired driving before they ask to administer the SFST. The test results will merely provide the probable cause that is necessary to make an arrest. As a result, police officers spot the symptoms they want to see when administering the test.
Any motorist may politely decline an officer’s request to submit to a SFST without penalty by stating the results are not conclusive. Do not confuse this with a police request to submit to a blood or urine test. Refusal to take a chemical test may result in additional criminal charges, including the loss of your driver’s license.
Even if you face a driving under the influence (DUI) charge, you may have a strong defense. Police may have stopped you illegally or committed errors while administering a sobriety test. A knowledgeable DUI defense attorney will be able to review the facts of your arrest and determine if you should fight the charge. In other instances, a lawyer may be able to have the charge reduced in order to minimize the penalties. Don’t fight a DUI charge alone.