Can drivers refuse field sobriety tests?

On Behalf of | Mar 5, 2021 | DUI Defense

Most all states work to combat drunk driving by imposing fines and jail terms on drunk drivers. When a suspected drunk driver in Florida gets pulled over by police, the officer commonly conducts several field sobriety tests. The driver can refuse to undergo the tests, but they still may face charges.

Standard field sobriety tests

The three standard tests include the One Leg Stand, Walk-and-Turn and Horizontal Gaze. Each test has certain cues the officer looks for to determine impairment levels, such as the ability to follow directions, losing balance or jerking eye movement.

The One Leg Stand Test requires the driver to balance on one leg for a few seconds. During the Walk-and-Turn test, the officer instructs the driver to take a few steps in a straight line, turn on one leg and walk back the other way. The Horizontal Gaze test requires the driver to follow an object the officer moves. If a driver registers .08, the legal BAC limit in many states, they could get a DUI/DWI.

Penalties for refusal

Many states have implied consent laws, which mean drivers give consent to these tests when they use public roads. Drivers who refuse the preliminary sobriety tests rarely face legal penalties, but they still may get charged with DUI if the officer has probable cause to believe they are intoxicated. The driver could get subjected to more tests at the police station.

However, refusing a breathalyzer test, a device that measures BAC with a breath sample, usually imposes immediate penalties. In Florida, the driver faces a penalty of a one-year license suspension for the first charge.

A DUI charge carries many penalties, and prosecutors could use refusals of tests against the driver. The driver may want to consult with an attorney who can ensure the officer conducted tests properly and defend against charges.