Nothing can ruin a night out with your Louisiana college friends quite like seeing a patrol officer’s squad car lights flashing in your rear-view mirror. While there’s always a chance that the reason an officer is making a traffic stop against you will turn out to be a minor issue that ends with a warning and freedom to go on your way, it is also possible that the events that unfold will lead to serious legal problems, especially if the police officer thinks you’ve been drinking.

You can usually tell that a traffic cop suspects you of drunk driving if he or she asks you to step out of your car. If he or she follows the instruction with a request to take a field sobriety test, you may be in for a long night. You may be able to mitigate your circumstances, however, if you know your rights ahead of time, as well as how to protect them.

Factors that may affect the outcome of your situation

There are three common field sobriety tests that most Louisiana police officers use to determine if they have probable cause to make a drunk driving arrest. The following information tells more about these tests and also information that could be helpful to you in a traffic stop:

  • The walk-and-turn test is one most drivers are familiar with; you place the heel of one foot at the toes of the other, hold your arms out at shoulder length and walk to a point along a straight line that the police officer designates before you begin.
  • If, on the other hand, the officer asks you to perform a one-leg stance, you must keep your arms at your sides, which can make balancing on one leg quite challenging, even when sober.
  • Some police officers will also ask you to tilt your head so that you are looking up at the sky while you stand on one leg.
  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus test measures eye movement when you track an object using only peripheral vision, not by turning your head.
  • Police may use other tests as well; however, these three are most common, and they may use them alone or in combination.
  • You do not have to take a field sobriety test if you’d rather refuse. There are no legal or administrative repercussions for non-compliance.

It is a violation of your constitutional rights for a law enforcement officer to threaten you with arrest or any other negative consequence for refusing to take a field sobriety test. Prosecutors often use the fact that someone refused to their own advantage in court, which is why most Louisiana drivers think it best to just go ahead and take the test.

Unreliability may be high

If you do take a field sobriety test, know that such tests are typically not reliable to determine intoxication at the time you took the test. The police officer’s personal interpretation of the situation will also have a lot to do with the results of your test. While there are certain observations he or she may be looking for, it comes down to whether or not the officer administering the test thinks you passed or failed.