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Do I have to take field sobriety tests (FSTs)?

If you have ever been pulled over by police, you know it can be intimidating. Even if you don't think you were doing anything wrong, you might feel very nervous. This is intensified by police commanding orders and demanding information.

License and registration. Where are you headed? Where are you coming from? Hands on the wheel. Look over here. Step out of the vehicle. 

Many people do not know their rights in such scenarios and this leads them to feel scared, and their nerves can even cause them to give awkward and incriminating answers to police.

If you are stopped by police in Missouri, you have the right to refuse to take field sobriety tests (FSTs). Common FSTs include:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus, which is when an officer asks you to follow his or her finger or a pen with your eyes
  • Walk and turn on command, which is used by police to determine your ability to follow directions as well as to test your balance
  • One leg stand, which also supposedly tests your balance and ability to follow instructions

Just as you have the right to remain silent, you have the right to refuse field sobriety tests. Many people do poorly on these tests even when they haven't had too much to drink. This is because the tests are hard and because police often administer them improperly.

If you refuse to take a field sobriety test, which is your right, police can attempt to use your refusal as evidence that you were intoxicated. However, this evidence is not as strong as the evidence they would get if you do take the test and fail. When you fail an FST, you are providing police with very harmful evidence to be used against you in a DWI case.

So, if you are stopped by police, know your rights. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to refuse field sobriety tests. You have the right to call an attorney.

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