Colin McCallin May 27, 2015

Virtually any time you are stopped and investigated for suspicion of DUI, the officer is going to ask you if you would be willing to perform Standard Field Sobriety Tests, otherwise known as Roadside Maneuvers. These tests were developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, beginning in 1975. Today, 40 years later, these tests are still in use. Anytime you are asked to perform these tests, the only answer that you should politely give is “no thank you.” These tests are voluntary and an officer cannot compel you to take them, although they may and often do try to pressure people into performing them. Here’s why you should refuse:

Roadside Tests Are Intentionally Difficult

These tests are designed to make you fail in a variety of ways. First, each test intentionally creates the smallest base of stability for subjects. This means that you will be asked to put your feet together on the ground rather than shoulder-width apart. It is much more difficult to balance in this position than if you have a broad base of balance.

The Police Officer is the Judge, Jury, and Executioner

Each of these tests is extremely subjective, and unless you are lucky enough to have a video of your performance, the only judge is the officer who already suspects that you are impaired. This officer has carte blanche to judge and determine how well or poorly you perform, without taking into consideration a multitude of factors such as temperature, wind, lighting, traffic, nerves, etc. If the officer says you failed, then you failed without any appeal and without any recourse to a higher authority.

You Don’t Know What You’re Being Tested On

How would you like it if you had to take a test, but you had no idea what you were being tested on? The officer is looking for minute “clues” that you, as the test taker, aren’t even aware of. The officer will tell you to stand with your feet together while he or she explains the maneuvers. They do not tell you that they are looking for any sort of movement front to back or side to side. They will have you walk along a line, which is often “imaginary,” without telling you that they are looking for any deviation off of this imaginary line. They look for raised arms, swaying, a turn that is not precisely as explained, or any other number of these “clues.” They also give you very detailed and complicated instructions one time, then expect you to remember and follow them precisely. If you ask a question during a maneuver, the officer will tell you to complete the exercise “as explained” and will penalize you if you forget an instruction.

Can A Sober Person Pass Roadside Tests?

The difficulty that these tests pose were recently driven home on the Rachael Ray show. An officer did a very truncated test on Rachael. You can see it here, and you can bet that the very sober Rachael Ray would have been hauled in on DUI charges. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being on the side of the road under a DUI investigation, do yourself a favor and decline to participate in the roadside maneuvers.