Traffic stops can be a simple matter of accepting a ticket, or they can be an investigation into a more serious traffic offense. When an officer asks you questions about your prior activities that day, you probably know that they have suspicions you could be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If there was something problematic about your driving before they pulled you over, your conversation might end with you exiting the vehicle. Performing field sobriety tests is often part of a drunk driving traffic stop, and it can be a stressful and humiliating experience.
Worrying about someone you know driving by and seeing you is a reasonable concern. You may become so anxious that you perform worse than you usually would. Why do you have to perform a field sobriety test on the side of the road?
Officers need information to establish probable cause
The goal of a field sobriety test isn’t public humiliation but rather to determine if you are not in the right condition to safely drive. The traffic stop occurred because of something that you did behind the wheel. However, a simple swerve isn’t necessarily an adequate justification for a ticket or an arrest.
The officer needs to prove that you violated the law somehow, such as by drinking and then driving. A field sobriety test can help an officer establish probable cause and give them a reason to ask you for a chemical breath test. If you fail the chemical test or refuse it, the officer can then arrest you.
Field sobriety tests typically involve performing physical tasks under the direct verbal guidance of a police officer. Your performance on the test may give an officer reason to request testing or sometimes even arrest you. Understanding what happens during drunk driving traffic stops can help those dealing with this stressful situation handle it better.