When someone is pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), the police officer needs to determine if there is actually valid reasoning to make an arrest. The most popular method of deciding if the driver is legally intoxicated – or has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level high enough to make driving illegal – is administering a few field sobriety tests, sometimes shortened to FSTs. Or, is “administering” not the right word? Are the police really just requesting that a suspect take an FST? If so, can it be refused without immediate legal consequence?
Why Field Sobriety Tests Can Be Refused
The three most popular FSTs are making the suspect stand on one leg, walk in a straight line and turn around, and following the point of a pen with just their eyes. No matter how common these tests and how official the police try to make them sound, they are not scientific by any means. A field sobriety test is just a way to help the officer make the subjective call to arrest or not, most commonly leaning towards the former.
Since most FSTs are not scientific, they are not included in implied consent laws. Each state has an implied consent law, which outlines that each driver automatically agrees to take a chemical test after being stopped for a DUI, or else they instead agree to surrender their driver’s license. A field sobriety test – even blowing into a pocket Breathalyzer – is not a chemical test. Therefore, in most cases, it should be safe to refuse to take a field sobriety test.
What to Expect When You Refuse a FST
Before you just blurt out that you are going to refuse to take a field sobriety test, you need to assess the situation. Namely, you should ask the officer if the field sobriety test is mandatory, and if refusal will impact your driver’s license. If they say it is not mandatory, you should be safe to refuse it. If they say it is mandatory, you should take it, even if you have a gut feeling it is not mandatory. The moment you refuse a mandatory or chemical test is the moment the Department of Motor Vehicles can revoke your license using its administrative authority.
It should also be noted that refusing to take a field sobriety test does not grant you any form of immunity or even necessarily reduce the chances of you being arrested for a suspected DUI. If the police officer still decide to arrest you, comply, stay quiet, and contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as you can.
Tidwell Law Group, LLC Can Defend Your Rights & Privileges
The penalties for even a first-time DUI in Alabama are steep. Tidwell Law Group, LLC and our Birmingham DUI defense attorney can help you fight the charges, keep yourself out of trouble, and hold onto your driver’s license. If you were arrested, we would like to discuss the details of your case with you, including whether or not you agreed to take field sobriety tests. Using our 10+ years of DUI defense experience, we may be able to craft a defense that defeats the prosecution’s arguments ad protects your rights.
Start today by calling 205.536.7770 and requesting a case evaluation with our team.