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Can I Refuse a Field Sobriety Test when Pulled Over for DUI?

Whenever a driver is stopped under suspicion of DUI, the law enforcement officer asks if the driver is willing to submit to a Standard Field Sobriety Test. There are reasons to refuse this test. In most cases, these tests are voluntary and an officer’s request does not require people to take them in most situations.

These tests can be difficult to pass for even non-intoxicated individuals. If the test is not successfully passed, law enforcement can use the failure as incriminating evidence in a case against you. It is always best to refuse to take the test and gain the help of a DUI Arizona defense attorney for any ramifications of the refusal or the roadside stop, itself.

Refusing to take a field sobriety test may be misconstrued as an admission of guilt. But a DUI defense attorney can explain the refusal away as part of a defense case for a DUI violation trial. By refusing a field sobriety test, you are not providing law enforcement with any new evidence of driving while under the influence, aside from an initial admission of guilt. By not taking the test, the potential of self-incrimination is reduced.

Although field sobriety tests are useful in some situations, these tests are over 40 years old. They have not been updated, thus do not provide the necessary versatility for the variances between types of individuals who are able to safely drive on the roads today.

Why it May Be a Good Idea to Refuse a Field Sobriety Test

Roadside field sobriety tests are purposefully more difficult than other types of tests. There is an inherent factor toward failure in these tests, with each field test requiring dexterity many people do not have, even when completely sober. The tests have a small base of stability that can cause balance issues, potential for falling over and other failures that may be seen as intoxication.

For people with a normal or broad base of balance, fewer issues will occur under sobriety. But walking in a line with heel and toe together is much more difficult for many people than it sounds, especially so when one must follow a straight line while retaining the number of steps the officer requested. The leg raise test can make test takers shaky, nervous, jittery and prone to falling over or needing assistance in remaining balanced. All of these issues are exacerbated by unsteady ground, gravel, darkness in night, passing traffic and other factors.

Police Officer Judgment of Field Sobriety Tests is Subjective

Field sobriety tests have set instructions for officers to follow. But there is no standard for determination of the results, as to whether or not someone is impaired. The officer is the sole judge of this and uses his or her judgment in the balancing test to make a determination toward inebriation. A law enforcement officer can judge someone as drunk or otherwise impaired if that person has difficulty walking the line or performing other tasks to which they are unaccustomed.

When a police officer is making a judgment on driver performance of a roadside test, he or she is not considering the emotional stress of the driver or other issues causing the driver to not perform well. Many drivers become nervous when asked to perform this type of test, particularly after feeling anxious about being pulled over in the first place. Officers often ignore weather, traffic, lighting, driver stress and other factors. Even if other portions of the test are completed successfully, the officer’s statement that the test was failed cannot be overridden by the driver.

Drivers Are Not Familiar with These Tests

Drivers do not know which field sobriety test officers will ask them to perform until suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances. If the driver agrees to take the test, he or she is provided with quick, often confusing set instructions and no explanation of movement or how to perform the test effectively. Following officer instructions can be intimidating and even simply walking a straight line may need to be performed without any kind of visual reference to direct the driver straight ahead. If you have been pulled over, and find yourself performing these tests, there are some tips on taking a sobriety test that you can follow.

Officers look for physical cues from suspected DUI drivers such as swaying from side to side, swerving while walking, raising one’s arms, turns or other clues they assign to intoxication.

Do Sober Persons Pass Field Sobriety Tests?

According to a recent study investigating whether sober people are able to perform field sobriety tests effectively as compared to when they are intoxicated, many sober participants could not pass the tests. These people would have been arrested in most instances, despite being completely sober. This is why it is best for people who are pulled over to refuse taking the tests by calmly and politely answering, “No thank you” to the law enforcement officer when the test is requested. By being polite and answering in this manner with a calm demeanor, you are not further incriminating yourself.

Get the Help of a DUI Lawyer

We can help you when you are wrongly accused of DUI because of refusal to take a field sobriety test. Our experienced attorneys will be able to guide you through criminal defense when you are charged with DUI due to a breathalyzer or other chemical test. It is important to have an effective lawyer’s help in these situations, as even a first offense DUI can have serious, life-changing results that limit your ability to drive, work and pursue your personal goals for the future. Even your freedom can be affected.

When you are accused of this charge in Arizona, call the experienced and effective lawyers of DM Cantor at 602.307.0808 for a free, initial consultation and recommendations regarding your case.

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