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Are you clumsy? Be careful, as it might land you in jail!

Not everyone in Kentucky has mad balancing skills. In fact, you may count yourself among those who can barely stand on one foot for longer than 10 seconds without feeling the need to grab hold of something (or someone) to keep from toppling over. Some people are simply more skilled than others are when it comes to tests of balance and agility.

That's not necessarily a problem, unless of course, you happen to be facing a police officer who has just pulled you over on suspicion of drunk driving. In such circumstances, your ability to balance on one leg or walk a straight line might mean the difference between going home that night or going to jail. There are several things you should know about field sobriety tests, especially regarding your rights and how to protect them.

Three common tests

Police typically use one or more of the following tests to determine if they have probable cause to make a suspected drunk driving arrest:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus: This is an eye movement test. If your eyeballs erratically jerk before they reach their maximum peripheral vision point when tracking an object left to right or up and down, your near future might include a ride in the back of a police car.
  • Walk and turn: If you are someone who tends to trip over his or her own feet, you may not fare well when taking this test. It usually involves walking a straight line with arms outstretched at shoulder length and the heel of one foot touching the toe of the other with each step.
  • The one-leg stance: Here's the test that measures your ability to balance. It also happens to involve standing on one leg for 30 seconds or more, with your arms at your sides and your head tilted toward the sky. This is even difficult for most sober people!

Know your rights

Suddenly facing a request to perform one or more of these tests is enough to make your stress level soar. The important thing to remember, however, is that you are not legally obligated to take field sobriety tests nor are there any administrative repercussions for your refusal to do so. That does not mean that prosecutors won't try to use that against you in court, only that you do not have to comply with an officer's request to take such tests at the scene of a traffic stop.

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