When a police officer pulls you over, you may feel several physical reactions. Your heart may beat faster, your face may feel hot and your hands may shake. This is normal since an encounter with police often has an uncertain outcome. If the officer asks if you have been drinking, you have good reason to be nervous. A police officer who suspects you of drunk driving may have already decided to arrest you.
Nevertheless, the officer needs probable cause, so he or she may ask you to step out of the car and submit to field sobriety tests. Despite your nervousness, it is critical that you think clearly, know your rights and decide how you will respond to the officer's request.
Field sobriety tests are not mandatory
Failing a field sobriety test is easy to do even when you have not been drinking alcohol. Many factors, such as the shoes you are wearing, the unevenness of the terrain, any medical conditions you may have and the officer's own bias can affect your ability to perform these supposedly standardized tests:
- Walking heel-to-toe in one direction, turning, and walking back in the same manner
- Following the officer's finger with your eyes so the officer can determine if the normal jerking in your eyes is exaggerated
- Standing on one leg without swaying or dropping the other leg while the officer times you
Even if the officer phrases the request as a command, you still have the right to refuse to comply with roadside sobriety tests. These do not fall under Maryland's "implied consent" law, which compels you to submit to a blood or breath test after police have placed you under arrest.
Roadside tests and your rights
The blood or breath test in the implied consent law is not the same as the preliminary alcohol screening with a portable breath device that an officer may ask you to take at the scene. If you are not under arrest, the law does not compel you to comply with these roadside tests, but be prepared that police will likely arrest you anyway.
Once you are under arrest, the law says you must give a blood or breath sample for police to analyze. Refusing to do so may result in legal consequences. Because of the potential for serious ramifications, you would be wise to have the advice of an attorney as soon as possible after your DUI arrest. Your attorney can analyze the evidence against you and advise you how best to proceed with your defense.