You may already know what it's like to experience a stressed feeling in the pit of your stomach when you glance in your rearview mirror and see police lights flashing. An officer pulling you over is no fun but doesn't necessarily have to ruin your entire day or week so long as no major issues arise during your traffic stop. In fact, sometimes, a police officer may simply give you some type of warning (i.e., slow down!) and then send you on your way.
If at any point during a traffic stop, a police officer asks you to step out of your vehicle, he or she is detaining you. That means you are no longer free to leave unless the officer gives you expressed permission to do so. It also often means the officer suspects you of a crime, such as drunk driving.
Tests that may impact your future
Once a police officer detains you, you are officially under investigation. If the suspicion is intoxicated driving, the officer might ask you to perform certain field sobriety tests. In a matter of moments, you will have to make some very important decisions, the first being whether or not you will comply. The following list provides information regarding what a police officer is looking for when observing you as you take an FST, as well as what your rights are and where to turn for help if needed:
- There are generally three tests police officers use to determine probable cause if they are considering placing you under arrest for drunk driving.
- State laws vary, and the exact procedures followed in instructing you to perform FSTs may also vary; however, the tests typically have similarities from state-to-state.
- A police officer will closely observe you as you take an FST. He or she will note any supposed impairment on your part concerning your physical and cognitive abilities.
- The walk-and-turn test is the one with which most motorists are familiar. By asking you to walk a straight line, with arms outstretched at shoulder length while placing the heel of one foot at the top of the toes on the other with each step, an officer is checking your balance skills, as well as your ability to follow simple instructions.
- Another FST involves standing on one foot and counting out loud simultaneously.
- Finally, the officer may ask you to follow the movement of an object (such as a penlight) he or she holds in hand to check if your eye movements are erratic.
Remember that you are within your rights to invoke the Fifth Amendment and remain silent unless legal representation is present. You are also able to refuse to submit to FSTs without any administrative penalties. However, if you do refuse and later face DUI charges in court, the fact that you refused the tests will likely not play out in your favor. You may reach out for support to build as strong a defense as possible.
Most Tennessee motorists understand that it's best to cooperate with an officer's request so long as it in no way violates their personal rights. Most motorists also seek guidance from experienced criminal defense attorneys before heading to court.