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When can you refuse a sobriety test?

On Behalf of | Feb 9, 2023 | Drunk Driving |

Imagine someone was drinking with friends and left the bar drunk. The police noticed the driver was drifting between lanes and ran a red light, giving them probable cause to pull them over. The officer then asked the driver several questions, asked to see their driver’s license and registration and then requested the driver to take a sobriety test.

In this situation, the officer would likely ask the driver to perform a field sobriety test or a breath test, if not both. But, much like pleading the fifth to any questions, can the driver refuse a sobriety test? To better understand this question, you should first understand the difference between a field sobriety test and a breath test. Here’s what you should know:

Field sobriety testing

A field sobriety test allows the police to evaluate a driver’s mental and physical condition and judge whether they are inebriated. During this test, the driver will perform several physical exercises. There are four kinds of field sobriety tests: 

  • Horizontal gaze test: the driver focuses on a single point
  • Walk-and-turn test: the driver walks in a straight line and returns to where they started
  • One-legged stand test: the driver, as the name states, stands on one leg
  • Non-standard field sobriety test: any test that isn’t above is considered non-standards, such as listing the alphabet backward

Drivers should know that they have the right to refuse a field sobriety test. This may be because these tests rely on the judgment of the officer, meaning they may not be entirely accurate.

Breath alcohol testing

A breath test uses a chemical formula to evaluate a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). If their BAC is 0.08% or higher, then they can expect a DUI/DWI charge. Breath tests are highly accurate, but can still create a false reading. Despite that, drivers are required to take a breath test under implied consent laws. What this means is that drivers are required to take a breath test if asked, or they could face penalties and charges for refusing to do so.

It’s important to understand your rights during a traffic stop. If you believe your rights were violated, then you may need to know your legal options