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Understanding Field Sobriety Tests: Your Rights in a Maryland DUI Stop

March 15, 2024
Cyndi Christiani

When the police pull you over on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), there are some things you have to do, and there are some things you don’t. For example, while Maryland’s “implied consent” statute requires you to submit to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test in most cases, you are not required to take the field sobriety tests (FSTs) under Maryland law.

That’s right: If a police officer asks you to take the field sobriety tests, you have the absolute right to refuse. The officer cannot force you to take the tests, the officer cannot use your refusal as evidence that you know you are drunk, and prosecutors cannot use your refusal against you in court.  Refusing to take the field sobriety tests does not mean, however that you won’t be charged and/or arrested for DUI. 

If you are pulled over, you can tell the officer you are exercising your right to remain silent and refuse to take any field sobriety tests.  Unfortunately, many people don’t learn this until it’s too late. Many people take the field sobriety tests assuming that it is required. If you took the field sobriety tests, “failed” the tests, and are now facing a DUI charge in Maryland, here’s what you need to know:

If You “Voluntarily” Took the Field Sobriety Tests, Prosecutors Can Use Your Test Results Against You

Since you aren’t required to take the field sobriety tests in Maryland, if you take them, your submission to the FSTs is considered “voluntary.” As a baseline, prosecutors can use your test results against you. If your arresting officer testifies that you failed any field sobriety tests, prosecutors can present this testimony as evidence of your guilt in court.

Field Sobriety Test Results Aren’t Always Admissible as Evidence

But, while field sobriety test results are generally admissible as evidence, various factors can render FST results inadmissible in a Maryland DUI case. For example, your FST results (and all other evidence from your traffic stop) may be inadmissible if the police pulled you over without reasonable suspicion. If your arresting officer profiled you or pulled you over in hopes of arresting you to receive benefits at work, then your lawyer may be able to keep the state’s evidence out of court. Without evidence, prosecutors won’t be able to secure a conviction.

Field Sobriety Test Results Are Unreliable

Even if your field sobriety test results are admissible, this doesn’t necessarily mean the prosecutor’s office can use them to secure a conviction. Field sobriety test results are unreliable—and this is something that your lawyer can work to prove as well. Police officers must administer the FSTs according to strict protocols for the results to be valid, and even then, issues ranging from poor lighting and road conditions to the police officer’s flawed interpretation of your performance can call your FST results into question.

Discuss Your Case with a Maryland DUI Defense Lawyer in Confidence

If you took the field sobriety tests during a DUI stop in Maryland, it is important that you speak with a lawyer about your defense. To confidently discuss your options with an experienced Maryland DUI defense lawyer, call 443-405-8211 or request an appointment online today.