There is a lot of confusion out there about refusing a field sobriety test during a traffic stop and what the potential penalties for DUI are. A typical situation is when an officer pulls you over for a broken tail light, dark window tints, illegal headlights or speeding. Perhaps the officer might say they smell the odor of alcohol, or the driver’s eyes are red, or even their face is flushed.
Hypothetically, let’s say you were in this situation. You are coming back from a bar and you have had a couple beers so there is alcohol coming from your breath. After pulling you over, the officer has some suspicion that you drank and asks you to take a field sobriety test.
Do you have to take the field sobriety test?
Know Your Rights
First and foremost, if you are alleged to committing a crime, you do not want to give away any evidence or information away that confirms you have committed a crime. You will want to refuse to partake in any tests that could potentially be used as evidence against you to confirm any allegations that you have committed a crime.
Your decision on whether or not to take a field sobriety test is completely voluntary. This is true for every state in the United States.
It should also be noted that field sobriety test results are completely subjective. If an officer truly believes you are impaired and under the influence, his analysis of your field sobriety tests will be heavily biased. The field sobriety test results are all based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions of the officer. The officer’s conviction that you are guilty will subconsciously influence his perception of your performance on the field sobriety test.
Also, these field sobriety tests are difficult to pass even if you are sober. If you are sober, you could fail the field sobriety tests, and only be cleared up after you are arrested and take a breath test.
The results of the field sobriety test will all point to the consensus that you are intoxicated and not that they are difficult tests. In short, you have little to gain by completing the field sobriety test and a lot to lose if you fail it.
The most common misconception to refusing a field sobriety test or a breath test is that if you are to refuse the tests, you would then have your license suspended for a year. This only applies for the post-arrest blood or breath test. If you refuse to take a breath test after you are arrested, you will get your license suspended.
Remember, the best policy is to have no alcohol in your system.
If you are alleged to be driving under the influence, one of the best things you can do for yourself pre-arrest is to refuse to take any field sobriety tests, remain silent or to ask to talk to your lawyer. You do have the right to remain silent. Everything you say or do will be used against you in the court of law.
The police officer may insist that you have to take the field sobriety test and may get angry for you not cooperating but it is your constitutional right to remain silent and decline the field sobriety test during a traffic stop.
However, if the officer obtains enough probable cause by showing that you cannot complete the field sobriety test or if you blow over a .08 on a breathalyzer, the officer will have probable cause to arrest you for a DUI. Under the “implied consent” laws of all states, the officer will require you to submit to a blood or breath test to determine the amount of alcohol in your body. If you refuse the test after you are arrested, you will get your license suspended.
There is no penalty for refusing to partake in a field sobriety test at a traffic stop. You will probably get arrested for a stench of alcohol, slurred speech or an open container in the vehicle but that will probably happen anyways. You do not want to give any more superfluous evidence to confirm any criminal allegations.