If you’re driving along a Louisiana roadway and notice flashing red and blue lights in your rear-view mirror, your stomach might do a flip-flop. If you already have a couple speeding tickets on your driving record, you might feel especially nervous as a police officer pulls you over and approaches your driver side window.
You never know what will happen during a traffic stop. You might think you’re getting pulled over for one thing and soon learn that the officer’s reasons are quite different from what you’d expected. If police ask you to step out of your vehicle, you can assume they think you are intoxicated. The question is: If they ask you to take a field sobriety test, do you have to comply?
The answer might surprise you
You are under no obligation to take a field sobriety test during a traffic stop. Police cannot arrest you for your refusal. In fact, there are no administrative or legal penalties for non-compliance. Many Louisiana residents decide that they’d rather co-operate than decline a field sobriety test because they worry that police will use the fact that they refused against them in court if they later face drunk driving charges.
Three basic tests that police use most often
A Louisiana police officer may choose which field sobriety test he or she administers to you during a traffic stop. There are three tests they tend to use most often. You’re likely familiar with the walk-and-turn test because it’s the one used in movies most often. The officer may ask you to walk a straight line, turn and repeat your course in the opposite direction.
You’ll have to place the heel of one foot at the toes of the other with every step. Your arms must remain outstretched at shoulder level the entire time. A one-leg stance test requires you to stand on one leg with the other foot held about six inches off the ground. Your arms stay at your sides on this test, but you might have to tilt your head toward the sky and count a series of numbers out loud.
If you fail a field sobriety test
Police may ask you to take a horizontal gaze nystagmus test, which involves your tracking an object with your eyes only. The purpose is to determine whether you might be intoxicated by observing the movement of your eyeballs during the test. If a person is drunk, his or her eyeballs will jerk erratically before reaching maximum peripheral vision point.
If the officer in charge says you fail, then you fail. Failing a field sobriety test means the patrol officer that pulled you over has probable cause to take you into custody on a drunk driving suspicion. If that happens, it’s critical that you know your rights and how to protect them in court.