A common misconception regarding DUI traffic stops is if you don’t do everything the police officer says, you will be considered guilty. This, however, is not exactly true. While you should always show the officer respect, he or she may try to trick you into thinking something is mandatory when in fact it isn’t. Their job is to build a case. Our job is to keep you informed.
Can I Refuse Field Sobriety Tests?
If you have been pulled over and a police officer suspects you have been drinking, they may attempt to walk you through a series of field sobriety tests. These may include following a light with your eyes, walking a straight line, counting and performing other basic tasks. They are completely voluntary, and there are differing views on whether you should refuse to take them.
Why Should I Refuse?
If you have been drinking you may turn down the field sobriety test, including the roadside breathalyzer. The officer might then arrest you, at which point you must take some form of drug or alcohol screening at the police station or have your license immediately revoked. Refusing a field sobriety test may buy you time, and may weaken the officer’s report. That’s why some attorneys recommend refusing before arrest: they can argue you were invoking your civil liberties, and there is less evidence against you overall.
Why Shouldn’t I Refuse?
Prosecutors will characterize refusal as admission of guilt. A good defense attorney will combat this assumption, but it may hold sway with a judge or jury nonetheless. On the other hand, the subjective judgments of a police officer might not be enough to convict you. An excellent defense attorney will be well-versed in the research behind administered field sobriety tests, and will be able to argue that the officer administered it improperly or that the test has not been proven to diagnose intoxication. Each jurisdiction has specific guidelines for administering field tests. If your attorney can prove the officer failed to follow those guidelines, the evidence could be dismissed as inadmissible; however, taking field tests and counting on the officer to demonstrably violate protocols is not a fail-proof approach.
The important thing to remember is your attorneys will review the case against you to form their arguments, whatever evidence is presented. Practice your right to remain silent to increase your chances of getting a solid defense.