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Can you refuse field sobriety tests?

On Behalf of | Apr 24, 2023 | DUI

Police may stop vehicles when they suspect a driver is drunk. During the traffic stop, the police may ask the driver to do a field sobriety test. 

A field sobriety test is a kind of physical evaluation. To understand if you can refuse a field sobriety test, you should first learn what these tests involve. Here’s what you should know:

Horizontal gaze nystagmus test

A horizontal gaze nystagmus test involves the driver focusing on a single point with their eyes. This point may be a finger, light or pen. The police will then move the object back and forth just at the edge of the driver’s peripheral view. 

Naturally, the eyes will flicker or jerk when looking at something at the edge of its vision. However, alcohol can make the eyes jerk more, which may cause focus issues. Frequent jerking may indicate to an officer that a driver is inebriated.

Walk-and-turn test

A walk-and-turn test has the driver walk in a straight line, from heel to toe, nine paces out. There they’ll turn and walk back to where they started. 

If the driver struggles to stay in a straight line, loses their balance, takes too many or too few steps or doesn’t follow instructions, then the police may suspect the driver of being drunk.

One-legged stand

A one-legged stand test may have the driver stand on one leg with their foot six inches off the ground. The driver will then have to hold that position for half a minute or until the officer concludes the test.

The driver may lose their balance, hop or put their arms out to keep balance. These actions may signal to the police that the driver is drunk.

Refusing field sobriety tests

There’s typically no penalty for refusing a field sobriety test. However, police may ask the driver to take a chemical test, such as a breath test.

A breath test is a portable hand-sized machine that evaluates a driver’s blood alcohol content. If the blood alcohol content is above the legal limit, then they could face a DUI charge. Refusing a breath test could lead to criminal charges.

Field sobriety tests and breath tests can have inaccurate results. If you believe this is the case and you’re facing a criminal charge, then you may need to know your legal options for a defense