I have met with hundreds of people who have been arrested and charged with a DUI over the years. Time and time again, these prospective clients generally fit a similar profile. They are people who have never significantly been in trouble before. They go out with friends or coworkers and have a couple drinks. They then head home, and on their way one of a handful of things happen: they get lost, they speed and change lanes without signaling, or they don't stay within their lane. Occasionally some will doze off at a stop light and not wake up when the light turns green. Whatever the reason, they all find themselves pulling off the road when the blue and red lights go on behind them.
And this is where almost all of them think the same thing: If I cooperate and do what the officer asks me to do, he'll let me go.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, should be pleasant and cooperative with an officer. However, this extends to only a few things like pulling over on command, producing identification and insurance, and getting out of the car if told to do so. It also includes always cooperating if an officer is putting you under arrest.
Performing the roadside tricks (they call them "field sobriety tests" but I think it's more like asking a dog to do lots of tricks in a row) is not one of those things that you have to extend that cooperation to. There is a way to politely decline to perform them.
In almost every instance, performing these tests will incriminate you in some way, potentially even if you aren't under the influence. When's the last time you were asked to hold one leg up on the side of a cold, busy freeway while under the threat of imminent arrest? When's the last time an authority figure rattled off 5 or 6 instructions on how to do something new to you that you had to follow exactly?
It's important to know that these tricks were created and tested on drunk people. That SOUNDS really persuasive, until you learn that they were never tested on sober people to determine their reliability and accuracy.
It's equally as important to know that these tests only have reliability if they are performed EXACTLY the way the instructions tell the officer to administer them. If the officer deviates at all, he is making up a test that has never been studied or tested, and hence is meaningless. In years of defending DUIs, I've had the opportunity to cross examine a lot of police officers under oath, as well as watch videos of my client's arrests. Far less than half of the police officers I've encounted have performed the tests the way they were trained to. I have gone through and passed the same training as the police officers do to administer the tests, so I know what to look for and what they do wrong. And they do it wrong a lot.
So, dear friends, there's a really good chance that you might make a mistake. You might lose your balance when a car goes by, or you may forget to do one instruction of many that are rattled off to you. You might start a test as the officer is explaining it, or have a sinus infection. And, you might not have had anything to drink, but have terrible balance. All of these things could end up with you in handcuffs, rather than on your way home like you thought.