If a police officer suspects you are driving under the influence, he or she may have you perform field sobriety tests. You have probably seen some version of these tests before on TV: walking in a line, standing on one leg, etc. Often, the officer will not even ask you if you consent to the tests – they will just start doing them. So you may be thinking – do I have to do the tests?
If you ask the officer that, the officer will say something like he can’t force you to do them, but he can use your refusal against you. What that means is that unlike your right to remain silent, where staying silent cannot be used against you in court, refusing the field sobriety tests can be used against you. Judges can consider a refusal when determining if there is probable cause of the arrest, juries can consider the refusal when determining if there is evidence that you were impaired while driving.
However, refusing field sobriety tests may be better than failing field sobriety tests. There are many reasons a person may fail the tests besides intoxication. If you naturally have poor balance, it may be difficult to pass the tests. If you have back or leg injuries, are overweight, are elderly, have head injuries, or numerous other medical conditions, you may have difficulty passing the tests. That is why it is best to refuse to do the field sobriety tests.
Do not refuse the breath or blood test (you can refuse the preliminary breath test, the breath test done with a small, handheld device). If an officer believes he or she has probable cause to think you are impaired while driving, the officer will request a breath or blood test. The officer will then read you the “admin per se” form. If you refuse the breath or blood test (officer’s choice of test), your driver’s license will be suspended for one year. Then the officer will simply get a warrant and take a sample anyway. It is best to cooperate and consent to the breath or blood test to avoid the 1-year license suspension.