Like just about everyone else in New Jersey, when someone accuses you of something, your first inclination is to defend yourself. You want your accuser to know your side of the story, and you want to prove your innocence. It may be okay to take this stance in some instances, but not necessarily when it comes to a DUI traffic stop.
If a police officer pulls you over on suspicion of drunk driving, you may want to deny your instinct to do whatever you can to defend yourself — at least not on the side of the roadway. For instance, participating in field sobriety tests may not be in your best interests since many factors could cause you to “fail” them even if you are not legally drunk.
The officer needs to establish probable cause for an arrest
In order to make an arrest, police officers must first establish probable cause to do so. One way in which they do so during a DUI stop is through field sobriety tests. Fortunately, you do not have to help the officer establish probable cause by participating in these tests since they are voluntary. However, he or she will most likely attempt to persuade you to do so anyway, using one or more of the following tactics:
- The officer may say that participating in the tests would convince him or her that you can drive safely.
- He or she may play on your sense of guilty by saying that you would participate if you had nothing to hide.
- The officer may appeal to your instinct to defend yourself by saying that participating in the tests would convince him or her that impairment is not an issue as suspected.
- He or she may even tell you that a jury will assume your guilt if you fail to take the tests.
These tactics may be compelling, but you should know that even sober people fail field sobriety tests more often than anyone would like. The odds are not in your favor since the tests rely on the opinion and subjectivity of the officer.
However, you need to be aware that you could still end up under arrest on suspicion of drunk driving even if you do not participate in field sobriety tests. The officer may believe he or she has enough evidence for an arrest even without these tests. If this happens to you, it would most likely be in your best interests to exercise your right to remain silent and your right to counsel as quickly as possible.