Can I Refuse to Submit to Field Sobriety Testing

Motorists who are stopped or detained under suspicion of DUI may not be aware of their rights. The police officer who stops you will likely ask you to perform a series of field sobriety tests. In many states, motorists are required to take a breathalyzer test, but a field sobriety test is optional. The results of a field sobriety test will determine if there is probable cause to arrest you for drunk driving. 

Field sobriety testing consists of the physical tasks a law enforcement officer may ask you to perform. The testing may include the “horizontal gaze nystagmus” test, which requires that you stand on one leg. It may also include a test in which you are asked to walk a straight line and turn around. There are other field exams, as well.

Field sobriety tests have been highly contested over many years time. For the most part, they are not mandatory and do not carry much weight in your case. A few critical points to remember about these tests and your rights during a DUI stop include:

You can refuse field sobriety tests

Yes! You have the legal right to refuse a field sobriety test when a police officer requests it. In this situation, you should be polite and respectful, stating that you wish to exercise your right to refuse the testing. However, if the officer has probable cause to believe you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he or she can arrest you and require you to take chemical tests.

Sobriety tests are not a good indication of impairment 

Indeed, you should refuse a field sobriety test for one main reason—they are not an objective and reliable assessment of an individual’s impairment. Many factors impact these kinds of tests, and law enforcement officers can misinterpret the results. These tests can allow officers more time to gather enough legal grounds to suspect you are impaired, leading to further tests, and potentially an arrest.

Many different factors can affect how an individual performs on field sobriety tests. The weather and roadway conditions may impact how well the tests can be performed. Rain, high winds, uneven roads, and slick surfaces can present challenges. Furthermore, some medical conditions and physical impairments or injuries can affect how well a person performs on the tests. Additionally, a police officer could think you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, a police officer could think you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol when you merely can’t manage the task, sober or otherwise. 

You can refuse to perform roadside breath tests 

After you have been asked to take field sobriety tests, or have completed them, law enforcement officers may then ask you to take a roadside breath test. The breathalyzer test can measure the alcohol level in your system. You can refuse preliminary breath tests from a roadside device. However, you will probably be taken to the police station and required to take a chemical test there. You cannot legally refuse the secondary chemical tests without incurring automatic penalties to your driving privileges. Therefore, it is generally advised that you submit to the second chemical test.

You should contact an attorney

The best and most important thing to do after being charged with DUI is to contact an experienced and knowledgeable DUI defense attorney. Your lawyer can investigate the specific circumstances surrounding your arrest, determine how to challenge the evidence, and work toward securing the most favorable results.

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