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What you should know about refusing a sobriety test

On Behalf of | Mar 5, 2023 | Drunk Driving

In order to promote and maintain public safety, the police may perform a traffic stop if they have reasonable suspicion that the driver is violating traffic laws. Police can’t lawfully pull a driver over without first having reasonable suspicion. However, the police may obtain this requisite reasonable suspicion if they notice that a driver is swerving, drifting or speeding.

During a traffic stop, an officer should ask for the driver’s license and registration. Following that, they may ask the driver to take a sobriety test. There are two popular kinds of sobriety tests: standardized field sobriety tests (SFST) and breath tests. Many people believe that they have the right to refuse all sobriety tests.

However, drivers may face automatic, negative consequences for refusing some sobriety tests. To better understand which kinds of sobriety tests can lead to automatic penalties, you should take time to understand what these sobriety tests involve.

What is a standardized field sobriety test?

A standardized field sobriety test can be described as a physical evaluation. Drivers may have to move in various ways to prove to an officer that they are sober. There are three kinds of SFSTs that are commonly employed:

  • Horizontal gaze test: the driver may be asked to focus on a pen, finger, light or other object and keep their eyes on it without moving their head while it moves
  • Walk-and-turn test: in this test, the officer may ask the driver to walk on a line and then walk back to where they started
  • One-legged stand test: this test involves the driver balancing on one leg, as the name implies

If the police spot any signs that the driver is struggling to perform any of the above SFSTS, then there may be enough cause to charge the driver with an OVI.

What about chemical tests?

Alternatively, the police may ask the driver to take a chemical test called a breath test or breathalyzer. A breath test evaluates a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). Similarly, a driver may be asked to take a blood alcohol test after returning to a police station or after being transported to a hospital. A breath test may be refused prior to an arrest without automatic consequences but may not be refused after an arrest has occurred without incurring penalties.

Under implied consent laws, drivers can’t refuse chemical tests that are administered after an arrest without facing criminal charges. Yet, regardless of whether someone who has been arrested refused a breath or blood test post-arrest or not, they’ll need to understand their legal rights in order to successfully defend against serious criminal charges.