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Field Tests

Once a driver has been pulled over, the officer may decide that he/she suspects the driver to be impaired. If the officer has made this determination he/she may ask the driver to exit the vehicle to perform field tests to decide whether to arrest the driver for DUI/DWI. It is important to remember that under Illinois law, if an officer instructs you to exit your vehicle, you DO have to exit the vehicle. If you refuse to exit the vehicle, you may be arrested for the offense of Resisting or Obstructing a Peace Officer. Also be mindful that many squad cars are equipped with cameras, and an ever-increasing number of officers wear body cameras, and so your actions--whether you are cooperative or not--may be recorded and could be used against you at a later date. Thus, your best bet is to be polite and respectful with the officer. That said, you DO NOT have to take any tests or answer any questions once you exit the vehicle. Once again, be mindful that you may be recorded and therefore always be polite and respectful with the officer, but you can respectfully assert your right not to take any tests or answer any questions.

Obviously, if you decide not to take any tests, the officer may arrest you even if there is relatively little evidence to support his or her suspicion that you are under the influence. Many police officers take the view that they would rather get someone off the road who they believe is unsafe to drive, even if the case is later “thrown out” in court. Please remember: do not try to bargain with the police officer. Requests that you be allowed to “call a ride” or that they follow you home may be seen as admissions by you that you shouldn’t be driving. Of course, even though refusing to take the tests will likely result in the officer arresting you for suspected DUI, you may nonetheless be better off refusing the tests. Keep in mind that unless you are completely sober, taking the field tests is not likely to change the officer’s opinion about your impairment, and your performance on those tests can provide more evidence which may later be used against you in court. Better to keep quiet, respectfully decline testing, and comply with the officer’s orders when placed under arrest, so that any video/audio footage they have of you will play to your advantage. However, if you do decide to take the tests, make sure that you follow the instructions exactly. Video recording can be very helpful to the defense in these situations as officers frequently commit errors in the administration and scoring of the field sobriety tests. On the other hand, any evidence that you have difficulty following the instructions given may be argued by the prosecution as evidence that you are impaired.

Prior to arresting you for DUI, if the officer believes you may be under the influence of alcohol, he/she may also ask you to take a breath test on a handheld device (called a PBT) at the scene of the stop. Although the results of this pre-arrest preliminary breath test cannot be used against you at trial on a DUI charge, they can be used to justify an officer’s decision to arrest you, which can make it more difficult to challenge a license suspension. For this reason, you should never take any breath test unless you are very confident that you are far below .08. Please see our page on Breath, Blood, and Urine Tests for a more detailed look at breath tests in DUI cases.

If the officer decides to arrest you, you will probably be placed in handcuffs at least temporarily. You should not resist arrest even if you disagree with the decision. The arrest can always be challenged in court, but if you resist: 1- you may make yourself look bad in any audio/video recording that happens to be capturing the arrest and 2- resisting will likely result in additional criminal charges.

If you are arrested, your vehicle will likely be towed and the police agency may conduct an “inventory” of your vehicle before it is towed to document the condition of the vehicle and note valuables located in the vehicle. If illegal items are found during this inventory, then additional charges may be filed. The officer may read you your Miranda warning and attempt to ask you questions about your activities before you were stopped. You should politely tell the officer that you wish to remain silent and wish to speak to an attorney. If you are taken to jail, the squad car may be recording your transport – thus, do not engage the officer in any conversations during transport.

A DUI investigation and arrest is a complex process, and it is not uncommon for even experienced officers to make critical mistakes in that process which can lead to opportunities for your attorney to seek a reduction or dismissal of charges. However, it is a rare case where a client helps his/her position by resisting the officer, being rude to the officer, or trying to explain themselves to the officer during the arrest. Your best bet for beating these charges is to follow the advise above and contact our experienced DUI/DWI lawyers as soon as possible after your release from custody.