Having to pull off a Florida highway, wind down your window and look into the eyes of a police officer is a potentially highly stressful experience. If you're one of those people who gets nervous around people in uniform, your heart may begin beating faster as soon as you see the red and blue lights flashing in your rearview mirror.
If the officer greets you, requests to see your driver's license and vehicle registration information, then asks you to step out of your car, you can bet he or she thinks you've been driving under impairment. It's understandable that you might feel overwhelmed or helpless in such situations; however, you have rights, and the more you know about how to protect them, the better able to mitigate your circumstances you might be.
You don't have to do everything the officer asks you to do
If a Florida police officer asks you to show identification during a traffic stop, you must comply. If, on the other hand, he or she makes a request for you to take a preliminary alcohol screening breath test or field sobriety test, you may refuse. The following list includes possible benefits or negative consequences for doing so:
- Police must have probable cause to arrest you. If you don't perform a field sobriety test, this may be seen as probable cause.
- If you perform poorly on a field sobriety test, the officer is likely to fail you. The officer may use personal interpretation of your performance to decide if you pass or fail, but you can't fail a test you didn't take. Failing can result in the severe criminal penalties associated with DUIs.
- If you refuse to take a field sobriety test and later face drunk driving charges in court, prosecutors may use the fact that you refused the test to try to incriminate you.
- If you refuse to take the test, the officer who made the request may suspect that you're trying to hide something, which may prompt him or her to press harder to find probable cause for an arrest.
It is your choice whether or not to take field sobriety tests or preliminary alcohol screening breath tests during a traffic stop. While you have to submit to a Blood Alcohol Content screening under implied consent, the same does not apply to field sobriety tests.
Many motorists decide that it's best to cooperate as much as possible rather than further raise an officer's suspicions. If you believe an officer has violated your personal rights, you can address the matter in court.