If a police officer pulls you over, what happens in the next few minutes could mean the difference between ending up under arrest on suspicion of drunk driving or not. Even if you haven’t been drinking, the officer may have observed something that made him or her believe you were impaired.

Regardless, you may now find yourself facing a decision that could affect your future. The officer may ask you to participate in field sobriety tests. Should you do it?

Far too many people fail field sobriety tests

Did you know that sober people can fail field sobriety tests? Yes, you read that right. The primary problem with these tests is that they rely on the subjectivity of the officer administering them. If the officer believes you “swayed,” then you will fail and could end up under arrest for drunk driving.

Perhaps more problematic is the officer’s bias. It’s part of human nature that we form opinions based on our biases. From the moment the officer suspected you of impairment, that perception will either consciously or unconsciously guide how the officer views you as you participate in these tests. For this reason, you may end up failing the tests due to this issue.

Fortunately, you don’t have to participate

You could avoid the officer’s bias by not participating in field sobriety tests. You may not know that, like every other state, Missouri does not require you to agree to take these tests. You can politely and calmly refuse to do so. You should know that the officer will most likely attempt to make you believe that taking these tests is a requirement. He or she may also attempt to convince you to participate by appealing to your need to “clear your name.”

It may feel awkward, but you can continue to refuse. However, even if you don’t take part in the tests, you could end up under arrest because the officer suspects you of drunk driving. The officer may believe he or she has enough additional “evidence” to do so.

If the officer arrests you

If you do end up arrested on suspicion of DUI, it would be in your best interest to take advantage of your right to remain silent and your right to counsel. Protecting your rights needs to remain a priority. If you face charges, the penalties associated with a conviction go beyond fines, jail time and other court-mandated consequences. A conviction will probably affect your personal and professional lives as well, so the sooner you begin building your defense, the better the odds are of achieving the best possible outcome.