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2024 Field Sobriety Test: Must You Do It? (Know Your Rights)

You are not legally required to perform a Field Sobriety Test (FST) if requested by a police officer. These tests are voluntary and you can decline to take them. However, it’s important to understand that in many jurisdictions, refusal to perform an FST might lead to further police investigation or action, such as an arrest or additional tests for intoxication, such as a breathalyzer test or a blood test.
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What is a Field Sobriety Test?

A field sobriety test is utilized to assess whether an individual is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. When a police officer suspects a driver of being intoxicated, they will instruct the driver to stop the vehicle and step out. The driver is then asked to complete a variety of exercises that evaluate their ability to safely control a vehicle. These exercises test the driver’s balance, coordination, and ability to perform multiple tasks simultaneously.

Also Read: Do You Have to Show ID to Police During a Stop in California?

Field Sobriety Test Examples

According to Barry T. From VWM, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration outlines three specific tests in the Standard Field Sobriety Test (SFST) to evaluate potential impairment from alcohol or drugs while driving. These include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, the Walk-and-Turn test, and the One-Leg Stand test [1].

Horizontal gaze nystagmus is an involuntary “jerking” of the eyeball which happens to everyone when the eyes are rotated at high peripheral angles. When a person is intoxicated, however, the jerking of the eyes becomes more exaggerated and occurs at lesser angles – Barry T.

  • Walk-and-Turn Test: During this test, the driver is instructed to walk nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line, turn on one foot, and return in the same manner. The officer watches for signs of impairment such as balance issues, stopping mid-walk, or not following the instructions accurately.
  • One-Leg Stand Test: Here, the driver must stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground and count aloud until told to stop. Indicators of impairment include hopping, swaying, using arms for balance, or putting the foot down prematurely.

These tests collectively help to identify impairment, with specific indicators pointing to a likelihood of having a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) above legal limits. Understanding these tests, especially in the context of Colorado where DUI laws are strict, can be crucial.

Whether you’re exploring wellness and relaxation techniques or need to ensure safe driving practices after enjoying your downtime, it’s vital to be informed about these procedures to make responsible choices and stay safe on the roads.

Also Read: Smoking Weed in Your Car in California

Signs of Intoxication

  • Challenges in managing vehicle controls
  • Struggling to retrieve a driver’s license or registration
  • Issues with getting out of the car
  • Repeating statements or inquiries
  • Displaying unsteady movements or difficulty balancing
  • Relying on the vehicle or another object for support
  • Exhibiting slurred speech
  • Responding slowly to the police or requiring repeated questions
  • Giving inaccurate or inconsistent answers
  • The smell of alcohol emanating from the driver

What Happens if I Refuse to Take a Field Sobriety Test?

According to Justia, field sobriety tests are optional, and drivers are not legally obliged to perform them [2]. When prompted to conduct such tests, a driver has the right to courteously refuse or request to consult with their attorney. Declining to participate in a field sobriety test does not guarantee freedom from further law enforcement action.

Typically, if a test is refused, the driver will likely be required to undergo a chemical test, such as a breathalyzer or blood test, to measure blood alcohol concentration.

The driver may even be taken to the police station or jail for a short period of time while these tests are conducted. Unlike field sobriety tests, refusing to perform a breathalyzer test or provide a blood sample can have very serious consequences.

Also Read: Can You Be Charged With DUI Without Evidence?

What Happens if You Refuse a BAC Test?

Implied consent laws play a critical role in DUI enforcement, a concept that might not be widely understood. These regulations stipulate that by driving on public roads, drivers automatically agree to submit to blood alcohol content (BAC) testing if suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) by a law enforcement officer.

These laws are designed to uphold the safety of the roads by deterring impaired driving and facilitating the prosecution of those found to be driving while intoxicated.

Declining a BAC test under these laws can lead to complications in legal proceedings. Such a refusal might be presented by prosecutors as an indication of guilt, affecting how judges and juries view your case, even though it’s not as conclusive as an actual BAC measurement.

The importance of understanding the implications of implied consent laws cannot be overstated. Being informed about these laws helps drivers make more informed decisions during critical moments. One of the most immediate consequences of refusing a BAC test is the automatic suspension of your driver’s license.

This suspension occurs right after you decline the test, potentially revoking your driving privileges before any DUI charges are formally processed or other legal actions begin.

The suspension of your license can have a ripple effect on your life. For instance, losing your ability to drive can make simple tasks like going to the grocery store or attending medical appointments a logistical challenge.

It can also severely restrict your ability to work, especially if your job involves driving or is in an area not easily accessible by public transport. Even if you can still get to work, the extra time and inconvenience of not driving can take a toll.

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If you feel affected by any of these matters, contact our criminal defense attorney today.

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