If you’ve ever had a Pennsylvania police officer pull you over in a traffic stop, you understand how distressing it can be. Stress can instantly intensify if the police officer in question asks you to step out of your vehicle. This type of request typically means that the patrol officer suspects you of drunk driving or some other driver impairment.
It would be a bad idea to refuse to get out of your vehicle when a police officer has requested that you do so. However, as the events of a traffic stop continue to unfold, several issues may arise that require you to either comply or decline participation, such as taking a field sobriety test or preliminary alcohol screening.
Three basic types of field sobriety tests
A police officer must have reasonable suspicion to pull you over in a traffic stop and probable cause to make an arrest. He or she might claim that your tires were veering over the yellow line while you were driving, which would constitute sufficient reason to pull you over.
If the officer in question suspects you of drunk driving, he or she may ask you to take a roadside breath test (which is different than a blood test) or a field sobriety test to determine whether there are grounds to take you into custody on suspicion of DUI. The most common types of field tests include a walk-and-turn test, a one-leg stance test and a horizontal gaze nystagmus test, which is an eye test.
Are you obligated to comply?
There are no legal or administrative penalties for refusing to take a roadside breath test or field sobriety test. A Pennsylvania police officer cannot arrest you for stating that you will not take such tests. However, not taking a field sobriety test in no way guarantees that you will not be arrested. In a field sobriety test, any score less than perfect may be considered a failure.
In most cases, drivers who have been pulled over often decide that it’s better to comply with a request to take a field sobriety test than to increase a police officer’s suspicion by refusing. A prosecutor can use the fact that you refused a breath test or field test against you if you wind up facing DUI charges. If you believe that you were arrested without probable cause, there are legal steps you can take to address such issues in court.