The flashing lights in your rearview mirror probably caught you off guard. Were you speeding? Did you forget to signal when you changed lanes? As you pull over and the officer approaches your vehicle, these and other questions may be going through your mind.
Perhaps you never anticipated the officer's question regarding whether you had anything to drink before driving. You may know better than to answer that question, but when he or she asks you to take a field sobriety test, you agree, partly because you want to prove you aren't impaired and partly because you think you don't have a choice. Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to participate in field sobriety tests.
What? No one ever told me that!
Perhaps one of the best-kept secrets of DUI traffic stops is the fact that you do not have to participate in field sobriety tests. Those implied consent laws that you agreed to when you got your Tennessee driver's license only apply to chemical tests that determine your blood alcohol content.
Even so, the officer will attempt to get you to participate because he or she needs you to fail them in order to establish probable cause to arrest you on suspicion of DUI. Don't think you can fail them if sober, or at least not legally impaired? Think again. Many sober people fail field sobriety tests for a variety of reasons, the least of which is the subjectivity of the officer.
Sure, chemical testing could prove that you weren't impaired and the court may dismiss any charges, but you still have that arrest following you around for the rest of your life. Of course, refusing to participate in field sobriety tests may not keep the officer from placing you under arrest, but the chances are just as good, if not higher, if you take them. Just be sure to remain calm and be polite when you refuse.
Challenging the charges
If you do end up facing DUI charges, don't waste any time challenging the charges. Even if a chemical test reveals you were impaired, that does not guarantee a conviction. The totality of the situation requires review since police officers make mistakes. Any breaches in protocol or violation of your rights could change the outcome of your case. Moreover, if this is your first DUI arrest, you may have options to avoid conviction that you didn't know about.