No one anticipates being stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence. Most Pennsylvania drivers know that when they got their driver’s licenses they agreed to submit to a breath test when requested by a police officer. When it comes to officers requesting participation in field sobriety tests during a DUI stop, most people believe they are also legally obligated to participate in those tests as well.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. The implied consent laws do not apply to field sobriety tests. Drivers do not have to participate in these tests, and in most cases, probably should not. These tests are highly subjective. They rely on a police officer’s opinion of whether a driver passes or fails.
Even sober people fail these tests only to be exonerated later by a breath or blood test. They still go home with an arrest on their records. That is because field sobriety tests are used to help establish probable cause for an arrest, and if an officer already stopped a driver on suspicion of DUI, his or her point of view may already be skewed against the individual taking the tests. These reasons do not keep officers from attempting to guilt drivers into participating.
Information is power. If Pennsylvania drivers understand their legal rights and responsibilities when it comes to DUI stops, it could prevent them from inadvertently providing an officer with probable cause for an arrest. Refusing to participate in field sobriety tests is one of those legal rights that could change the outcome of a DUI stop.