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Can you refuse a sobriety test?

On Behalf of | Feb 3, 2023 | Drunk Driving |

The police have to have reasonable suspicion to perform a traffic stop. If they find that a driver was swerving, driving in between lanes or violating traffic laws, then they may pull the vehicle over. During the traffic stop, the police will likely ask the driver several questions in addition to their driver’s license and registration.

After checking the driver’s information, they may believe the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. As a result, they may conduct sobriety tests. These tests may include a field sobriety test or a breath test.

The driver, however, may attempt to refuse a sobriety test. However, is this allowed? To understand the right to refuse a sobriety test, it’s important to understand what a field sobriety test and a breath test is. Here’s what you should know:

What is a field sobriety test?

A field sobriety test is a physical evaluation. Anyone sober may find these evaluations silly, but moving in such a way may be difficult for anyone inebriated. There are three kinds of field sobriety tests that a driver may have to perform:

  • ● Horizontal gaze test: the driver will look at a finger, pen or light and follow it without moving their head
  • ● Walk-and-turn test: the driver will walk in a straight line and return to where they started
  • ● One-legged stand test: the driver will, as the name states, stand on one leg

If the police find the driver is having problems enacting these evaluations or they find signs that the driver is drunk, such as repeatedly falling over or constant laughter, then the driver may be charged with an OWI.

However, these tests aren’t performed with much scientific evidence and can be greatly inaccurate. For example, someone with a lazy eye may fail a horizontal gaze test and someone with a limp may, likewise, fail a walk-and-turn test. As such, drivers have the option to refuse a field sobriety test.

What is a breath test?

A breath test is a complicated device that evaluates a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). If the machine reads a BAC higher than the legal driving limit, then the driver may face an OWI charge. Under the implied consent laws, a driver can’t refuse a breath test unless they want to face criminal charges.

If you believe your rights were violated during a traffic stop, then you may need to understand your legal rights.

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