Can I refuse a field sobriety test?

On Behalf of | Dec 2, 2021 | dui defense

A field sobriety test is actually a series of tests given to an individual to see if they are impaired. This is a standardized testing process that includes three tests including the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (one that checks for jerking in the eyes), a walking and turning test to check for balance and the ability to follow instructions, and a third, the one-legged stand, which makes sure you can balance and count in order until you’re asked to stop.

These tests are not 100% accurate, so it makes sense that not everyone would want to participate in them. While it is likely that someone who fails these tests is legally intoxicated, failing the tests doesn’t automatically mean that you are intoxicated at all. Medical conditions, for example, may lead to someone failing a test of balance very easily.

Field sobriety tests are subjective

Another problem with field sobriety tests is that they are not objective at all. Not every officer is going to rate the person’s tests in the same way. The scoring of these tests is not formalized, and the police don’t always give instructions in the same way. For that reason, it does make sense to avoid taking these tests, since failing them could hurt your case.

A field sobriety test may be used to help an officer establish that they had cause for stopping you. The results may also help reinforce a high blood alcohol concentration test result and show that you were impaired. It makes sense to avoid doing anything that could give an officer more evidence against you.

You have the right to refuse field sobriety testing

You don’t necessarily have to take a field sobriety test. The officer may be trying to establish that they had the probable cause needed to stop you and gather evidence of intoxication. For that reason, you should politely refuse.

You may still be arrested for a DUI, especially if your BAC comes back around .08% or impairment from other causes, like drugs, is suspected. Refusing the field sobriety tests may make it harder for the officer to supply the evidence that would be needed to prove a case against you.