Can you be arrested only for failing a sobriety test?

| Jan 19, 2018 | Field Sobriety Tests

After you get pulled over, the police make you run through a series of field sobriety tests. These could include the walk-and-turn (WAT), the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) and the one-leg stand (OLS).

You fail the one-leg stand and the walk-and-turn. You argue that you are sober, and you tripped on a rock on the shoulder of the road. It’s dark out, after all. It’s also 2 in the morning, and you’re just tired.

Can police still arrest you?

They can arrest you if officers determine that you appear to be impaired by alcohol. However, the standard procedure is to give you a breath test after you fail the field sobriety tests. This way, they can take a reading and record your blood alcohol concentration. If it’s over 0.08, that means you’re over the legal limit.

What the police are looking for with the field tests is probable cause. They already needed a reason to initiate the traffic stop in the first place. Perhaps you rolled through a stop sign or drifted over the center line. But they can’t make an arrest without probable cause and a reason to believe that you are impaired. Failing the tests generally is enough of a reason, though you do, of course, have the right to an appeal if you think errors have been made. Officers are supposed to keep records of the tests and your performance, and the whole thing may have been caught on the squad car’s dash camera.

If you do think you’ve been arrested in error, or that the police made mistakes and therefore made an illegal arrest, make sure you know all of the legal options you have.

Source: FindLaw, “Field Sobriety Tests,” accessed Jan. 19, 2018

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