Nobody lives their lives expecting to get pulled over for driving under the influence one day. Still, it’s a good idea to understand your rights, be aware of your legal options, and know when to hire a DUI attorney just in case.
In most states, if the police pull you over for suspected DUI, they may ask you to perform field sobriety tests to ascertain whether or not you are driving intoxicated. Law enforcement often does this when they have a strong suspicion that you’re drunk driving and need evidence to confirm it.
What are Field Sobriety Tests?
Field sobriety tests are a series of tasks that a driver has to complete to demonstrate sobriety. These tests assess your mental and physical abilities and help law enforcement to uncover signs of impairment, if any.
According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, officers can conduct three specific tests on drivers. These are:
- Walk and Turn
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (gaze test)
- One-Leg Stand
The police will use your performance on these tests to determine if you should be arrested for DUI and subjected to a chemical test.
Are Field Sobriety Tests Mandatory?
No, field sobriety tests are NOT mandatory. It doesn’t matter if you have been drinking or not, you have the right to politely refuse a field sobriety test by telling the officers that you don’t consent to testing.
It is critical for any driver to know and understand that there is NO penalty for refusing to do a field sobriety test as well as the Preliminary Alcohol Sensor or PAS Test . In fact, it is actually in your best interest to decline a field sobriety test. Due to the subjective nature of field sobriety tests, they are not completely reliable. It is up to the officer/s to decide whether you passed or failed, based on your performance. But since they pulled you over, they probably already have some bias against you.
Moreover, regardless of the state of your drunkenness (or sobriety), there are plenty of factors that may lead you to perform poorly during the test, such as:
- Bad weather
- Lack of sleep
- Vehicles passing by
- Fear and intimidation of officers
- Poor balance and coordination
Again, your refusal to take a field sobriety test or a PAS test cannot be used to arrest or convict you of DUI. Submitting to these tests are more likely to incriminate you than exonerate you. If the police make it appear as if you would be arrested if you do not take the tests, they’re going to arrest you anyway and just want as much evidence as possible to use against you in court.
What Happens After You Refuse a Field Sobriety Test?
The thing is; field sobriety tests are just one part of the process. If you refuse it, the police can still ask you to undergo a breathalyzer test or take you to the station for chemical testing (breath, blood, or urine test), especially if they have good reason to believe that you are driving under the influence. The officers can rely on physical signs of intoxication or impaired driving conduct when making a DUI arrest.
It’s crucial to note, however, that while there aren’t any serious consequences to refusing a field sobriety test, the same cannot be said for refusing a breathalyzer test or other forms of chemical tests. In states with implied consent laws, a driver who refuses to submit to a chemical testing faces significant penalties – typically worse than if they were simply found guilty of DUI.
Rejecting a chemical test can result in heavy fines, license suspension, mandatory IID installation, and even jail time. Furthermore, if the case goes to trial, the prosecution may argue that you refused to undergo a breathalyzer or chemical test because you know you are guilty of driving intoxicated.
Protecting Yourself Against a DUI Charge
Whether or not you made the mistake of taking a field sobriety test during a DUI arrest, being charged with DUI is an uphill battle that you shouldn’t face alone, even if it’s your first DUI offense.
The first thing you should do after a DUI arrest is to contact an experienced DUI lawyer to help you fight the charges brought against you. A reputable DUI attorney will work and fight hard to safeguard your rights and seek the best possible outcome for your case.