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Roadside facts that may affect your freedom

If an Ohio police officer pulls you over, he or she is supposed to have a reason for doing so. Many times, such situations involve a patrol officer with a radar gun who might claim to have clocked you traveling several miles per hour over the posted speed limit. If that's the case, you may wind up having to decide whether to pay a traffic ticket or fight it in court.  

If, however, the officer in question claims that your car was veering over the yellow line or that he or she witnessed you driving erratically, you may have a much bigger problem on your hands. It's not uncommon for a traffic stop of this nature to turn into a roadside investigation where the police officer is trying to determine if he or she has probable cause to arrest you for drunk driving.  

Tests that the officer might use to determine probable cause 

While the officer who approaches your vehicle might have pulled you over because your tires went over the yellow line, that is not necessarily enough cause to take you into custody. To substantiate his or her suspicions, the officer may ask you to take one or more of the following field sobriety tests:  

  • A horizontal gaze nystagmus test measures the movement of your eyeballs when you track an object from left to right or vertically, without moving your head. Intoxication often causes people's eyes to jerk before they have reached their maximum peripheral vision points. 
  • Do you normally have good balance? It will come in handy if you take the one-leg stand test, which involves lifting and holding one leg approximately six inches off the ground while your arms and hands remain at your sides. 
  • The officer may also use a walk-and-turn test to observe your balance and agility, as well as to check if you are able to follow a series of simple instructions. During this test, you will walk a straight line with arms held out at shoulder length, then turn around and repeat the whole test in the opposite direction.
  • Some police officers use the finger count test to determine if they have probable cause to make drunk driving arrests. This test requires you to point to each of your fingers while counting out loud in succession as you do so.  

Reading the descriptions of field sobriety tests here may make it seem like such tasks would be fairly simple to accomplish. However, if you're nervous or if you have had a couple of alcoholic drinks beforehand, things may not go so well. Failing a field sobriety test may result in your arrest. The police officer's personal opinion has a lot to do with whether you pass or fail.  

Protect your rights 

You do not have to comply if a patrol officer asks you to take a field sobriety test. However, you do need to step out of your vehicle upon request. Ohio also operates under implied consent rules, so you must take a Breathalyzer test if the officer arrests you and asks you to do so. You can request legal support to make sure you clearly understand your rights and have someone with you that can help you protect them.

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