This test may be one of the most important you take in college

When you arrived on campus for the start of your junior or senior year at a South Carolina college or university, you likely felt excited and a bit anxious. After all, you're more than halfway through earning your undergrad degree, and you know you'll likely encounter a few challenges between now and then. You hopefully have developed good study habits by now and have a close group of friends on campus who offer encouragement and support.

You were probably also looking forward to this year's college social scene. Perhaps you celebrated your birthday over the summer and are now age 21. You plan on having a few drinks with your friends in between the rigors of academics. As long as your campus isn't a dry one, that shouldn't be a problem. However, if you leave campus, have a drink or two, then a police officer pulls you over, you may need support that your study partners can't provide.

Please step out of your vehicle

If the police officer standing at your driver's side window says these or similar words, you can bet he or she suspects you of a crime. When an officer asks someone to take a field sobriety test, it becomes even clearer that he or she thinks the driver might be intoxicated. The following list shows information regarding what may wind up being one of the most important tests you take in college: 

  • Police can use your failure to perform well on a field sobriety test as probable cause to arrest you for suspected drunk driving. 
  • If you're nervous, clumsy, or have a past injury or particular health condition, it may impede your ability to perform well on such tests.
  • Most police officers use the walk-and-turn, one-leg stance or horizontal gaze nystagmus test to check for signs of possible intoxication.
  • While there are guidelines for administering such tests, personal interpretation is a key factor toward results, meaning the officer decides whether you pass or fail based on what he or she sees and thinks.

You definitely can't study ahead of time for a field sobriety test. You can, however, learn as much as you can about such tests, so you know what to expect if a South Carolina traffic cop asks you to take one. One of the most important things to know is that you are not legally obligated to comply with a request to take a field sobriety test.

What if you fail?

It's critical that you know your rights and how to protect them during and following a traffic stop, especially if you wind up in police custody. No college student wants to call home to let family members know he or she is in jail. Keep in mind, however, that your parents or guardians can help you tap into support resources that provide criminal defense assistance.

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