Ohio Field Sobriety Test

Ohio Field Sobriety Test – Refusing Ohio’s Field Sobriety Tests

If you are stopped on suspicion of DUI in Ohio, one of the first things that the police officer will likely ask you to do is perform an Ohio field sobriety test. But are you obligated to take these tests? If you choose to take the test, can the results be used against you at a DUI trial? What rights do you have if you are stopped on suspicion of DUI?

What Is a Field Sobriety Test, Exactly?

Ohio Field Sobriety TesField sobriety tests are used in every state of the country by police officers making DUI stops and arrests. Among the tests used there are three that are recognized as standardized tests. Beyond the standardized tests, police officers will employ non-standardized tests during DUI stops as well. The stated purpose of these tests are to measure how intoxicated a driver is at the time of the stop.

The three standardized, or generally accepted, tests are: Walk and Turn, One Leg Stand, and Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus.

Walk and Turn – this test is just what it says it is. An officer will ask a driver to stand heel-to-toe and proceed to take nine steps in a straight line. At the end of the line the police officer will ask the driver turn around and walk back the same way. During the test the driver is not allowed to use his or her arms for balance, and the driver must look down at the feet while counting the steps taken.

Problems: There are several problems with this test, the road conditions can affect outcome, traffic can skew the results, age, weather, and what the driver is wearing can all change the results of the test.

The One Leg Stand Test – Typically this test requires the driver to stand on one leg with the other leg six inches off the ground. The test takes thirty seconds to compete, and the officer may ask the driver to count while the test takes place.

Problems: This test suffers many of the same problems as the walk and turn test. Road conditions, driver’s health and coordination, footwear, and other factors can contribute to problems with the result of the test.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus – This test measures the eye movement of the driver. During this test the police officer will stand in front of the driver and move an object for the driver to follow with his or her eyes.

Problems: This test suffers the most problems. Because it follows and judges eye movement the results are arbitrarily interpreted by the police officer. Anytime you are outside your eyes will follow what is going on and you cannot be expected to control involuntary twitches that happen as a result.

Many people do not realize that these are the only tests recognized as standardized. Even though these are the standardized tests, police officers will often use non-standardized tests as well. Examples of these are the test that makes you count backwards, or finger-to-nose test, or others.

Whether you pass a field sobriety test or not is completely up to the subjective judgment of the officer. Even if there are eyewitnesses to the test or if the squad car picks up video of the test, the officer’s opinion will count the most. This illustrates another difficulty with field sobriety tests in general, each officer will interpret the results in different ways.

Can I Refuse to Take an Ohio Field Sobriety Test for DUI? What happens if I Refuse?

You can absolutely and certainly refuse to take a field sobriety test if an officer asks you to take one. These tests are voluntary and only help to build the case of the officer and the prosecution. There is no benefit to taking a field sobriety test, and it can only hurt you in the end. The officer who stopped you may give you a lot of assurances as to why you should take the test, but do not fall into that kind of a trap.

The truth is, many people who have not had anything to drink struggle with passing this test. And it is not even clear what passing means. It is not like the police are giving you a multiple choice exam. They are asking you to do difficult actions in a very stressful and intimidating environment.

Now, just because you can refuse to perform a field sobriety test does not mean you can refuse a chemical test. Once you are stopped on suspicion of DUI you are required to take the chemical tests the police instruct you to take. If you refuse to take a test, your license will be suspended for at least one year.

Many people do not realize that these are the only tests recognized as standardized. Even though these are the standardized tests, police officers will often use non-standardized tests as well. Examples of these are the test that makes you count backwards, or finger-to-nose test, or others.

Whether you pass a field sobriety test or not is completely up to the subjective judgment of the officer. Even if there are eyewitnesses to the test or if the squad car picks up video of the test, the officer’s opinion will count the most. This illustrates another difficulty with field sobriety tests in general, each officer will interpret the results in different ways.

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