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When can you refuse a sobriety test?

On Behalf of | Feb 23, 2023 | DUI

The police may conduct a traffic stop after having reasonable suspicion that a driver is drunk or violating other traffic laws. Some examples of reasonable suspicion include a driver who’s on the center line, a driver who just ran a stop sight on a red light or a driver who was stopped after stumbling out of a bar. 

During the traffic stop, the police may ask the driver to perform a sobriety test. A sobriety test could give the police enough evidence as to whether the driver should be charged with a DUI or not. It’s often believed, however, that people have the right to refuse sobriety tests without facing penalties.

While that’s not entirely true, it’s not completely wrong. But, to understand when you can refuse a sobriety test, you may want to understand what kind of sobriety test you may be asked to take following a traffic stop. Here’s what you should know:

Field sobriety tests follow one rule

A field sobriety test may be best described as the judgment of a driver’s motor control and any indication of involuntary movement (not their ability to drive a vehicle, per se). To better understand this, there are three popularly used field sobriety tests:

  1. Horizontal gaze test: this test examines a driver’s ability to visually focus on a task without having their eyes flicker or drift
  2. One-legged stand test: the driver, in this test, may be examined on their ability to stay upright and balanced
  3. Walk-and-turn test: likewise, the driver may be judged on how well they can follow instructions and walk

Breath alcohol content tests follow another rule

Alternatively, the police may ask the driver to take a chemical test. A breath test evaluates a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). If a driver’s BAC is too high, then they shouldn’t be operating a vehicle. Simply put, drivers have the right to refuse field sobriety tests without suffering penalties. However, a driver who refuses a breath test may suffer criminal charges because of implied consent laws. Under the law, you consent to chemical testing as a condition of having a driver’s license in the first place.

If you’re charged with a DUI, then you may need to be aware of your legal rights.