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How long you can stand on one foot could impact your freedom

Whether you're a born-and-raised Pittsburgher, living here temporarily while going to college or just passing through on vacation, you may be familiar with the fabulous nightlife and social amenities the city has to offer. Driving in downtown Pittsburgh or surrounding regions is a whole other ballgame, however! Traffic congestion and other obstacles are par for the course. It's easy to see how an issue might arise that could prompt a police officer to pull you over.

Perhaps your tires veered across the yellow line trying to avoid a pothole, or the officer thought you were too close to the car in front of you during a high traffic hour. If the police officer also happen to notice that you had just existed a local bar or restaurant, you could be in for quite a challenge if the situation leads to a request to take a field sobriety test.

Three tests that could determine your future

If a police officer pulls you over and asks you to step out of your car, it's likely he or she suspects you of drunk driving or drug impairment. The following list includes three field sobriety tests authorities often use to determine if they have probable cause to make an arrest:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test: To pass this test, you must be able to successfully track an object from side to side or up and down using only your eye movements, not your head. The officer conducting the test will probably be holding a pen in front of you or may ask you to follow his or her finger with your gaze. Any erratic eye movement or difficulty keeping your eyes focused may land you behind bars.
  • Walk-and-turn test: You've probably seen this field sobriety test in a movie or two. As you walk a straight (hopefully) line with your arms outstretched and your heel of one foot touching the alternate toes of the other as you go, the officer will closely observe your balance skills and also check your cognitive skills to see if you can follow a series of instructions.
  • Stand on one foot test: When you were a child, you may have challenged your siblings or friends to a contest to see who could stand on one foot the longest. As an adult standing on the side of the road under detainment from a police officer, your ability to perform well can mean the difference between going home that night or to jail.

The problem is there are many issues that could impede your ability to perform well on field sobriety tests that have nothing to do with alcohol consumption. Perhaps you suffered a disability after being injured in a car accident or have a chronic condition that affects your joints or muscles. Many police officers arrest first and ask additional questions later. That means you could really have your work cut out for you to try to avoid conviction.

Know your rights and where to seek support

You face no legal obligation to submit to field sobriety tests. Remember that if you do submit, the results can lead to your arrest whether you imbibed alcohol before driving or not. You have the right to challenge any evidence you believe is faulty when fighting criminal charges in court.

Most Pennsylvania motorists turn to experienced defense attorneys for help in trying to mitigate such circumstances.

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