Motorists who get pulled over in Pennsylvania and suspected of driving under the influence are often subjected to field sobriety tests. These tests may include finger-to-nose, reverse counting or “follow my finger,” and many drivers assume that they must complete the tests at an officer’s request.
Pennsylvania has implied consent laws that outline that anyone who drives in the state is assumed to have consented to undergo blood or breath tests. Many law enforcement officers tell drivers that these laws mean that they have to perform field sobriety tests, but in reality, the laws only apply when someone has been lawfully arrested.
A lawful arrest can only take place when a law enforcement officer has probable cause. When a driver refuses to complete field sobriety tests, the officer has less probable cause to justify the arrest. If you do not feel that you are driving under the influence, you do not have to comply with the sobriety tests. In fact, doing so may result in an arrest that you may have been able to avoid.
Issues surrounding field sobriety tests
While law enforcement continues to rely on field sobriety tests to determine whether or not someone is driving under the influence, many experts argue that they are not reliable. There are many instances in which sober drivers failed tests due to mitigating circumstances, including poor lighting, uneven road surfaces, disability or age.
If you get pulled over in Pennsylvania and asked to complete field sobriety tests, you do not have to consent. It may be in your best interest to avoid them to reduce your chances of a DUI arrest.