When a Florida police officer pulled you over, you were really hoping he or she was merely going to issue you a warning regarding your speed and send you on your way. In fact, that may be just how the situation appeared to be unfolding until the officer spied the empty beer can your friend left lying on the floor of your vehicle earlier in the evening. You recalled asking your friend to pick it up off the lawn but never expected him to leave it in your car.
As soon as the officer discovers the can, the next request is for you to step out of your vehicle. This is generally a sure sign that the investigating officer believes you may be intoxicated behind the wheel. Police must have reasonable suspicion to make traffic stops but need probable cause to arrest you for suspected drunk driving. They often determine probable cause by conducting field sobriety tests.
Your rights regarding such tests
There are several tests police officers most commonly administer to determine if they think you show evidence of drunk driving. The following lists provides additional information regarding the issue as well as how to protect your rights:
- A police officer who wishes to test your ability to follow simple instructions, as well as your balance and directional skills, may ask you to perform a walk-and-turn test. This typically involves walking heel-to-toe to a given point along a straight line with arms outstretched at shoulder height.
- A patrol officer may also ask you to stand on one leg while counting aloud or to track a moving object from side-to-side or up and down, using only your eyes, not your head. The latter test is called a horizontal gaze nystagmus.
- If you stumble, trip or fall or otherwise exhibit clumsy behavior, the officer may take it as a sign that you are intoxicated.
- You are under no legal or administrative obligation to submit to field sobriety tests.
- Prosecutors, however, know how to use the fact that you refused to take such tests against you in court, and they may try to do so if you later face drunk driving charges.
The best thing to do during a traffic stop is try to remain calm and remember that there are generally several options available to help protect your rights and try to avoid a drunk driving conviction. There are support teams available in Florida who know what to do if you believe a police officer has violated your personal rights leading up to or following an arrest.