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Did a Maryland police officer ask you to take a sobriety test?

Maryland police are often on the lookout for erratic driving behaviors. If they think your tires are coming too close to the yellow line or that you made an unsafe lane change, chances are you are going to wind up in a traffic stop. Sometimes, you might merely receive a warning before the officer at your car window says you are free to leave the scene.

Things don't always unfold in such a benign fashion, however, especially if the officer in question suspects that you've been driving under the influence of alcohol. You can assume that he or she thinks this if, when you pull over, the officer asks you to step out of your vehicle. Police don't normally do this unless they think a driver is impaired or has committed a crime.

If you step out of your car, remember these facts

It is critical that you obey a Maryland police officer's instruction to exit your vehicle. If you don't, you are liable to face serious legal problems. Beyond stepping out of your car, however, you have a certain amount of control over what happens next, especially if you are met with a request to take a field sobriety test. You should know the following

  • Such tests are not legally required. The police officer asking you to take the test cannot threaten you with arrest or any other legal repercussion if you refuse.
  • There are also no administrative penalties for refusing to take a field sobriety test.
  • In states with implied consent laws, you will incur a license suspension or other penalty if you refuse a chemical breath test; however, this is not so regarding roadside sobriety tests.
  • There are numerous types of field sobriety tests, although police tend to use just three. Sometimes they administer one test only, other times, a combination of the three.
  • The three most common types of field sobriety tests are the one-leg stance, the walk-and-turn test and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.
  • Many health conditions, past injuries or other issues can impede your ability to perform well on such tests.
  • Whether or not you pass or fail has a lot to do with the police officer's personal interpretation of your performance. 

It may be true that if you refuse to take a field sobriety test and wind up facing criminal charges for drunk driving anyway, prosecutors might use the fact that you refused the test to your disadvantage in court. It is also true that if you know your rights and how to protect them, you may be able mitigate your circumstances. 

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