Things to know if South Carolina police request field sobriety

Summer is winding down, but since you live in South Carolina, warm weather lasts much longer than it does up north. This means you still have lots of time to participate in outdoor activities and enjoy summer gatherings with friends. Such gatherings are a lot of fun, whether you go to the beach or simply meet at a favorite pub or restaurant for some great food and conversation. Maybe you know a place that has a happy hour. However, if you consume alcohol then drive, you are at risk. 

Not only might the alcohol impair your cognitive ability, if your blood alcohol content level is .08 or higher, you run the risk of facing DUI charges if a police officer pulls you over and determines there is cause for your arrest. One of the ways police make such determinations is to request that you take a field sobriety test. Do you have to comply? Do you know what is expected of you if you do? What will happen if you refuse to take the test?

Answers to these and other important questions

The following list includes brief explanations of the most basic types of field sobriety tests that South Carolina police officers often use to determine if they have probable cause to arrest someone on suspicion of drunk driving:

  • A horizontal gaze nystagmus test has to do with vision. The officer will closely monitor your eyeball movements while you track an object from left to right or vertically without using you head. Intoxication often causes eyeballs to jerk erratically before reaching maximum peripheral vision points.
  • A one-leg stance test checks your balance as well as your ability to follow a series of simple instructions. 
  • The walk-and-turn test is similar except that the officer will ask you to hold your arms outward at shoulder length while walking a straight line with the heel of one foot meeting the toe of the other with every step.

If you fail a field sobriety test, the officer can take you into custody for suspected drunk driving. Remember that the police officer is the one who determines if you pass or fail the test. While there are observation guidelines, the officer’s personal interpretation of your performance is a key factor toward test results. In other words, if the officer thinks you looked unstable while standing on one leg, he or she may mark your test as failed. 

You do not have to comply with a request to take a field sobriety test. There are no legal or administrative penalties for refusing. If you take the test, you should remember that the results may land you behind bars. The more you know about your rights ahead of time, as well as where to seek immediate legal support, the greater chances you have for obtaining a positive outcome if you face DUI charges in South Carolina.