A DUI stop and field sobriety tests

If you are stopped in the Chattanooga area on suspicion of a DUI, you will be likely be given a field sobriety test by the officer who stops your vehicle.

It is part of the assessment that the police officer, deputy sheriff or Tennessee State Police trooper perform when making the determination of whether you have exceeded the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit of 0.08, and are considered legally intoxicated.

If they judge you to be impaired, they will arrest you and bring you back to the police station.

The first part the DUI assessment occurs when the officer first notices you vehicle. Perhaps you are speeding and this triggers their radar gun. It may be that you are driving too slowly and overly cautious for conditions. It could that you are experiencing difficulty maintaining your lane.

Often it may be something as minor as a burned-out headlight or taillight. Any of these violations provide the officer with the reasonable suspicion that is constitutionally necessary for law enforcement to stop a vehicle.

After they have pulled you over, they continue the assessment by observing you as they ask for your license and registration. They may ask directly if you have had anything to drink. They will be watching for your movements, listening to your answers for coherence and whether your speech is slurred, and if your breath smells of alcohol.

At that point, if they suspect you are impaired by alcohol or drugs, they will typically ask you to exit the vehicle and will the request that you perform what are known as field sobriety tests (FST). These tests demand physical actions that are suggestive of alcohol intoxication.

We will look at some of the common FSTs next week.

Please note that an individual is not required to perform any type of field sobriety test (FST) and will not suffer any automatic penalty if they refuse to do so, which is a different result than that which will follow if they refuse to comply with the Implied Consent form to take a blood or Intoximeter test. Note also that the law enforcement officer will not tell the motorist that they have a right to refuse all field sobriety tests.

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