If a North Carolina police officer makes a traffic stop, the driver of the vehicle might feel a bit nervous as soon as he or she sees the flashing red and blue lights in the rearview mirror. In some cases, an officer will merely issue some type of warning and then tell the driver he or she is free to leave the scene. If the officer asks the driver to step out of the vehicle, the next request might be for him or her to take a field sobriety test, which might lead to a DWI arrest.

When a police officer asks a driver to take a field sobriety test, it is usually because he or she suspects the driver of acting under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Field sobriety tests are a means of observing the driver to ascertain whether there is probable cause to make an arrest. The first thing all North Carolina drivers should remember is that they are not required to take the field sobriety tests.

These tests have three main components. The officer may instruct a driver to walk a straight line with arms outstretched while placing the heel of one foot at the toe of the other. Not only does this enable the officer to see if the driver is able to remember and follow a series of instructions but also to check the driver’s ability to perform the tasks without stumbling or wavering in any way. Of course, sometimes that’s easier said than done.

The one-leg stance test also checks for balance and agility. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test, however, monitors eye movements while a person tracks an object vertically or horizontally. If a police officer decides the driver did not pass the field sobriety test, it may prompt the need for criminal defense support if the driver in question is taken into police custody for suspicion of impaired driving. An experienced criminal law attorney can help an individual in these circumstances protect all applicable rights.