When drivers are pulled over for suspected DUI, they may be subjected to field sobriety tests. A vehicle stop can be unnerving so drivers do not always think clearly regardless of whether they have consumed any alcohol. Many drivers go along with field sobriety testing because they believe it is mandatory. This is not true, so learn the facts before agreeing to anything.
What Are Field Sobriety Tests?
If a police officer suspects intoxication, the driver may be subjected to a standardized set of field sobriety tests. These assess skills to determine whether the driver is impaired due to consumption of alcohol or drugs. Tests include walking and turning, standing on one leg, and a horizontal gaze nystagmus assessment in which the officer shines a penlight past the eyes of the driver. The officer looks for horizontal or lateral jerking when eyes gaze to one side.
During the car stop, it may seem that refusing these tests is not an option. However, a police officer may not force a driver to take any field sobriety test. This means that the driver can refuse to take the tests without immediate repercussions. However, refusal may be combined with other observable evidence and used to build a DUI case.
After conducting the three standardized field sobriety tests, the police officer may read the driver an implied consent notice. This is followed by asking the driver to consent to a chemical test that identifies intoxication. At the car stop, this usually takes the form of a breathalyzer test. However, the police officer may also ask the driver to take a urine or blood test at a detention or medical facility. If blood-alcohol concentration is above a predetermined limit, the officer may determine that the driver is per se intoxicated.
Implied consent law states that an individual arrested for driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence is required to provide a breath, urine, or blood sample upon arrival at a police station or jail. In this situation, refusal is not without repercussions. The driver license may be suspended for up to 12 months based on state law.
Field sobriety tests are not mandatory, so remember that refusal is always an option. Chemical testing of the breath, urine, or blood is required and is usually an accurate indicator of blood alcohol level but it is not without its errors. To identify your options, consult a DUI attorney after taking or refusing either type of test.