Many drivers find themselves on edge when they see the red, white and blue lights flashing behind their vehicles. When this happens, they are eager to complete the traffic stop as quickly as possible so that they can be on their way. Unfortunately, some drivers falsely believe that the easiest way to do this is by answering a cop’s questions.

Yet, this mentality can place even innocent drivers in compromising positions. This is especially the case when it comes to Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs.) Say a cop suspects you of driving under the influence and asks if you are willing to take a FST. Are you required to comply?

You have the right to refuse a Field Sobriety Test (FST.)

In North Carolina, you can answer the cop’s question with a simple, “No, officer, I will not be consenting to a Field Sobriety Test.” But, if you choose to comply, you must know the repercussions of your decision. If you perform poorly on the test, this will be recorded in the report and you may be arrested. Your refusal can be used against you in court, but invoking your right to refuse can protect you from self-incrimination.

It’s important to distinguish a FST from a blood, breath or urine test. Under North Carolina’s implied consent law, it is unlawful for you to refuse such tests and you can be penalized if you do so.

FSTs aren’t always reliable.

If you do fail the test and are completely sober, you are not alone. There are various medical conditions that can affect a driver’s ability to walk in a straight line or follow a stimulus with their eyes. Such medical conditions can include vertigo, migraines, eye conditions, ear disorders and even a head injury sustained in a crash. In addition, the test may not have been properly administered by the cop. Cops must follow specific techniques established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Failure to follow the established scientific protocols can result in the results being called into question.

You should not hesitate to invoke your rights. You can protect yourself from self-incrimination by politely refusing to answer an officer’s questions, requests for searches and seizures and a FST. Remember – you can respect an officer’s duties and responsibilities under the law and still remain a law-abiding citizen.