Home \ What to do if you Refuse a Field Sobriety Test in Arizona
Driving under the influence (DUI) charges are often quite complex and involve many outside tests, regulations, and requirements. Arizona law has several harsh penalties put into place to try and curb the existence of DUI offenses which serve not only to aggravate existing charges, but may also confuse the accused defendant. Field sobriety testing in Arizona is part of the tests, which go into a determination of whether you are driving under the influence at the time of arrest. However, these tests can often be unpredictable and inaccurate, leading to DUI charges that have the potential to remain on your record. If you are facing DUI charges stemming from field sobriety testing in Arizona, do not hesitate to contact an experienced Phoenix field sobriety test defense lawyer.
If for some reason you can’t refuse to take a field sobriety test, do your best to follow the officer’s instructions exactly. The police aren’t just gauging your ability to complete the tasks, but to understand and follow orders. It’s okay if you don’t pass the test. Failing a sobriety test doesn’t mean an open-and-shut case. In fact, more than one-third of people who take field sobriety tests fail them. Even sober drivers can fail these tests out of nerves, or due to injuries that prevent them from being able to walk in a straight line. This is why you should refuse to take the test to begin with.
Failing the field sobriety test, however, can lead to an arrest for alleged DUI. The officers will also try to use the failed test (usually with dash cam footage of your performance) against you as evidence that you were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The prosecution will often call the arresting officer to testify against the suspect. The worst-case scenario after failing a field sobriety test is the courts accepting it as enough evidence of your guilt and convicting you of a DUI. With a lawyer, you may be able to escape this fate with strong and sensible defense tactics.
Field sobriety tests are notoriously subjective. They are an unreliable measure of a driver’s level of sobriety or intoxication. For these reasons, a criminal defense lawyer can often convince the courts to deem footage or results from a field sobriety test inadmissible in court. Showing past cases where the suspect failed a field test but passed a breathalyzer test is one example of how a lawyer could refute this type of evidence. Hiring an attorney can help you force a failed field sobriety test out of your case altogether, or at least argue against its reliability.
Field sobriety tests are different from blood tests and breathalyzers, which can accurately record your BAC at the time of your arrest or shortly thereafter. Field sobriety tests are performed by law enforcement officers on suspected DUI defendants and are supposed to focus on the human capabilities necessary to safety drive. The tests these law enforcement officers use are based on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which in turn are based on scientific studies. However, these studies are not conducted by the NHTSA but instead are conducted by people who receive grant money for their work and none of these studies are in fact peer reviewed which involves critique of the method by other experts in the field. As a result, field sobriety tests are based on overarching national standards which have not been carefully reviewed by anyone without a monetary interest in mind.
One of the most basic field sobriety tests includes the basic “Walk and Turn” test, which requires a suspected DUI defendant to walk a straight line, heel to toe, then turn around and walk back. Law enforcement officers in Arizona use an imaginary line rather than a true line to perform the test and often point to the NHTSA handbook as proof that they can do this. However, the language is ambiguous in determining whether a real or imaginary line can be used, and to base a DUI charge off of an imaginary line “walk and turn” test offers plenty of room for error which DUI defense lawyers in Phoenix can use to their advantage.
Law enforcement officers continue to maintain that field sobriety tests indicate impairment. However, the amount of criticism that has emerged as the result of the lack of peer review on NHTSA guidelines as well as research that is not founded on much of anything has led many states to change their own jurisdictional laws.
DUI charges involve many different outside events and circumstances which add to your offense and often aggravate your existing charge. Field sobriety tests are one indication of the national discrepancy in DUI charges which date back to the 1970s during which the NHTSA was paid to perform research to develop tools to test for impairment. If you have been arrested on suspicion of DUI based solely on field sobriety tests in Arizona, contact an experienced Phoenix DUI attorney today. Phoenix Criminal attorney Craig Orent of the Orent Law Offices has over 30 years of experience in defending his clients and ensuring they are not unfairly punished for crimes.