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Posted on February 26, 2019 in Drunk Driving

Can You Refuse a Field Sobriety Test?

The police rely on field sobriety tests to identify and arrest impaired drivers, but it is vital for drivers to know their rights when it comes to a field sobriety test. It is also important to know the difference between a field sobriety test and a chemical test such as a breathalyzer. While you may have legal grounds to refuse a standard field sobriety test, you cannot refuse a chemical test requested with probable cause.

What Is a Standard Field Sobriety Test?

If a police officer conducts a traffic stop or is managing a DUI checkpoint, the officer may request a driver to perform a Standard Field Sobriety Test. These tests are usually physical in nature and may involve balancing on one foot, answering various questions, walking a straight line toe-to-heel, and more. These tests are unpredictable and are subject to the officer’s interpretation. Submitting to a field sobriety test is inadvisable as even sober individuals may find these tests difficult to complete.

Failing such a test can constitute incriminating evidence, so it is often best to politely refuse such tests; there is no requirement to perform such a test. A driver may feel like complying with an officer’s request for a Standard Field Sobriety Test would be a simple way to prove the driver is not intoxicated, but this, unfortunately, works against drivers in this position fairly often. Speak with a field sobriety test attorney in Phoenix if were arrested on suspicion of a DUI with the only evidence being a field sobriety test.

Implied Consent for Chemical Tests

Unlike a Standard Field Sobriety Test, a driver may not refuse a chemical test to check blood-alcohol concentration if the officer has probable cause to issue a chemical test. By accepting your driver’s license and driving on U.S. roads you give implied consent to submit to a breathalyzer test when an officer conducting a traffic stop has probable cause to issue such a test. For example, if the officer observed your vehicle swerving, the officer may believe you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Smelling alcohol in a vehicle or the officer observing open alcohol containers in a vehicle could also constitute probable cause for a chemical test.

If a police officer stops your vehicle and has probable cause for a breathalyzer test, your refusal to take the test could have very serious consequences, even if you are not intoxicated and simply refuse the test. Due to the implied consent law for BAC tests, refusal to take a required chemical test can lead to significant fines, driver’s license suspension for a year or more, or possibly even jail time. Additionally, prior refusals and their associated penalties can also influence future sentencing for subsequent DUI-related matters.

No-Refusal Breathalyzer Mandates

Some states have adopted no-refusal laws that essentially allow the police to force drivers to submit to chemical BAC tests after suspected drunk driving. Officers in these states use mobile applications to quickly secure warrants, therefore compelling a stopped driver to submit to a breathalyzer under court order. Some states allow suspects to contact their attorneys prior to submitting to such a test and may specify which test they are willing to take.

Possible Penalties for a DUI Conviction

The penalties for DUI offenses vary from state to state, but generally, anyone convicted of such an offense can expect several possible penalties. Fines, jail time, and driver’s license suspension are common for even first offenses. Some first-time offenders may qualify for diversionary programs or alternative punishments or may have to attend drug and alcohol counseling, rehab, or educational courses to avoid jail time and more severe punishments. Some drivers may require the use of an ignition interlock device (IID) that prevents a vehicle from starting unless the driver blows into a built-in breathalyzer. Penalties generally increase with subsequent offenses, so any driver charged with a DUI offense should contact a Phoenix DUI attorney as soon as possible following a DUI arrest.