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As one of thousands of college students in North Carolina, you understand that studying for tests goes hand-in-hand with college success. Still, you may have already experienced times when you did your best to prepare but still didn't fare well on a particular test. In hindsight, you may have realized that any number of factors caused you to perform beneath your potential. Perhaps you weren't feeling well on test day or were under stress regarding a personal matter.

Failing one test in college is not likely to ruin your entire academic career; however, there's another type of test you may wind up taking at some point during your college years, and if you fail this test, you can wind up behind bars. It's not all that uncommon to get a traffic ticket while driving off campus. If a police officer thinks you've been drinking, your immediate future may ride on how well you perform a field sobriety test. Knowing how to quickly access support can greatly impact your situation.

Field sobriety tests are the worst pop quizzes ever

Nothing can cause your stress level to soar through the roof like suddenly facing a police officer who's asking you to step out of your car and walk a straight line. Police use FSTs to determine whether they have probable cause to arrest you for DWI, so if an officer is asking you to take an FST, he or she likely already suspects that you're intoxicated. Knowing the following facts regarding FSTs and your personal rights may help you mitigate your circumstances during an alcohol-related traffic stop:

  • The one-leg stance is a common FST police officers use to check your balance ability and see how well you can multitask. To perform this test, you may have to stand on one leg while counting out loud. The problem is that even sober people often stumble or fall off-balance when trying to balance on one leg. If you do so during a traffic stop, you may wind up in the back seat of a police car.
  • Another way a patrol officer can check your cognitive and physical abilities is to ask you to submit to the walk-and-turn FST. If you try to walk a straight line, then turn and perform the same action in the opposite direction, you may avoid a DWI arrest if you perform well. If you sway, trip, fall or otherwise fail to follow the officer's instructions properly, your immediate future might include facing DWI charges in court.
  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus test allows a police officer to observe your eye movements while tracking an object with your eyes only, not your head. An officer is looking for specific clues for possible intoxication. If more than three clues are present in your eye movements, the officer may suspect that your blood alcohol content is .10 or higher. The problem here is that many people suffer from certain vision or eye conditions that make performing this test extremely difficult.

There are certain situations in college where a professor may feel inclined to allow you to retake a particular examination if you didn't pass it the first time around. That's not likely to be the case regarding field sobriety tests. However, such tests are part of the preliminary alcohol assessment and you are not legally obligated to comply to an officer's request to take an FST.

What you should know about refusals

While you are definitely under legal obligation in North Carolina and most other states to take a lawfully requested chemical test, you can refuse to perform FSTs during a traffic stop. If you do, you should be aware that your refusal may make it more difficult to avoid conviction if you later face DWI charges in connection to the incident. In any case, it's always best to act alongside experienced legal guidance.

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