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Field sobriety tests are not mandatory, but a breath test is

While everyone hopes they won't end up pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, the truth is that it happens to many people. This is why it's best to know what your rights are -- just in case -- you ever find yourself in the situation where an officer is asking, "Have you been drinking tonight?"

The No. 1 thing to realize is that you have a choice when it comes to whether or not you want to participate in any breath or field sobriety tests. However, you can still end up under arrest, even if you refuse one or both. 

Understanding breath tests

Just by the simple fact that you have a Maryland driver's license means you have agreed to submit to a breath test if asked by law enforcement. 

This roadside test is when you blow into a device that measures the presence of alcohol in a person's system. This breath test is used to establish probable cause to arrest you on suspicion of driving under the influence, or DUI.

While you can refuse this test, refusing does not get you out of the possibility of arrest or consequences. In fact, the simple act that you refused a test will most likely result in the revocation of your driver's license. Why? Because you gave implied consent by having a driver's license in Maryland. 

Field sobriety tests

Like the breath test, officers also use field sobriety tests to establish probable cause for an arrest. Implied consent laws do not extend to these tests though, so you suffer no consequences for refusing to participate in them. In fact, it may be in your best interests not to since even sober people fail these tests. Even the three field sobriety tests endorsed by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (the walk and turn, one-leg stand and horizontal gaze nystagmus tests) have their faults and often lead to erroneous arrests.

Again, not providing an officer with probable cause by refusing these field sobriety tests does not necessarily mean you won't face arrest though. The officer may feel that he or she has enough other evidence to establish probable cause for an arrest.

Arrest and conviction is not the same thing

If you do end up under arrest though, remember that you it is on "suspicion" of driving under the influence. This is important to remember, as suspicion is not the same as conviction. 

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