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Can a cop make me take the DUI field sobriety tests?

Question: I can't believe that the cop made me take field sobriety tests. I can't believe that he had a right to do that, even if he thought I was DUI.

I was driving home when I got stopped by a Sandy Springs police officer. I was driving and I swerved but only because I was checking my phone for updated basketball scores for the tournament. A little after I swerved the cop stopped me. I said that I was just checking on scores because I was in an office pool and I said I could use some extra cash if I won.

I told him that I had a beer at the office so that's why he might smell some alcohol. When I got out of the vehicle he told me to do the tests. I took the tests and it was chilly outside and I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I walked a line, he looked at my eyes and I lifted a leg and counted.

The cop never gave me a choice. I think I should have had a choice if I wanted to take the tests or not. I need to know if I can use that as a defense to a DUI in Sandy Springs, because I don't want a drunk driving charge right now. I want to know my rights from a Sandy Springs DUI lawyer.

T.K. in Sandy Springs, GA

Answer: The field sobriety tests that are administered by the police are not mandatory. You can decline to take the tests. In fact, people should decline to participate. The tests will only be used against you, and many people who are not intoxicated will have trouble performing them properly due to injury or lack of coordination, or simply not understanding how to do them correctly.

The tests are graded by the officer, who is trying to find "clues" for intoxication. Clues, however, can include not following directions, swaying, stumbling and other physical issues that are not necessarily due to intoxication.

When you swerved (legally Failure to Maintain Lane or "FTML"), the officer had probable cause to pull you over. You can be stopped by a law enforcement official for failure to maintain lane. That is a common reason that someone is stopped for DUI.

Your admission to the police officer that you had been drinking, if only one beer, combined with your failing to maintain your lane, likely aroused suspicion. Many times, when a traffic violation is combined with an admission of drinking alcohol, a DUI arrest will be made.

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