If a police officer suspects that you're operating under the influence (OUI), they'll pull you over and try to get evidence to build a case against you. In the events leading up to the traffic stop, and during the traffic stop itself, everything that the officer does is for the singular purpose of justifying an arrest.
Two key tools that police officers have at their disposal to arrest you for OUI, are field sobriety tests and a breathalyzer test. By asking you to perform either of these tests, the police officer can get crucial evidence that you've been drinking and more importantly, driving under the influence.
However, there's one important difference between a breathalyzer test and field sobriety tests: Breath tests are mandatory, with consequences if you refuse to take one, while field sobriety tests (at least in Maine) are voluntary.
Field Sobriety Tests Are Voluntary
Field sobriety tests are voluntary because, according to Maine law, “if there is probably cause to believe a person has operated a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants, that person shall submit to and complete a test to determine an alcohol level and the presence of a drug or drug metabolite by analysis of blood, breath or urine.”
Notice that the test that you “shall submit to” is one that tests blood, breath, or urine. Field sobriety tests, however, test none of these things. Therefore, field sobriety tests are not something you have to submit to, hence, they're voluntary.
Police Won't Admit That They're Voluntary
However, police will never admit that these tests are voluntary when they pull you over. Instead, they'll request that you step out of your vehicle – or sometimes flat out tell you to get out – and immediately instruct you on what to do for a field sobriety test. Before you know it, you could be giving them the evidence they're looking for to arrest you for OUI.
Why You May Choose Not to Take a Field Sobriety Test
Unlike breath, blood, or urine tests, field sobriety tests do not test your sobriety by measuring how much alcohol is in your blood. Instead, they test your motor skills and ability to follow complex sets of instructions by dividing your attention and making you perform multiple tasks at once. Drunk people have more trouble doing this than sober people do. However, for a variety of reasons, many completely sober people struggle to pass field sobriety tests.
Some field sobriety tests are physically demanding, requiring you to stand on one leg for extended periods of time, or walk along a line and then perform a very specific turn on your toes. Injuries or a lack of physical coordination can mean you fail the test and give law enforcement evidence that you're under the influence, even if you're sober. Even age can be a factor in a failed field sobriety test.
William T. Bly Is an OUI-Defense Attorney Who Can Help
If you get pulled over for OUI in Maine, know that you don't have to submit to field sobriety tests. If it's too late, and you failed a field sobriety test during the traffic stop, you can rest assured that the prosecutor will use it as evidence against you. Contact OUI-defense attorney William T. Bly to have him fight for you in court, and argue how these tests are poor indicators of sobriety. Call his law office at (207) 571-8146 or contact him online.