If the police have reasonable suspicion that a driver may be drunk, they may perform a traffic stop. The driver will likely be asked to take a sobriety test. You should know that drivers often have a right to refuse sobriety tests, but not in every situation.
To understand when you can refuse a sobriety test without incurring automatic penalties, you should be aware of what may be asked of you during a traffic stop.
Standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs)
For starters, you may be asked to take a standardized field sobriety test. This kind of test is a physical examination, which allows law enforcement to judge whether a driver is too impaired to drive. There are three commonly used SFSTs:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus: This test involves having the driver focus their eyes on a moving object, such as a finger, light or pen.
- Walk-and-turn test: This test has the driver walk in a straight light, turn around and walk back to where they started.
- One-legged stand test: As the name implies, this test has the driver balance on one leg.
In some cases, an officer may ask the driver to perform a non-standard field sobriety test (NSFST), which may include activities such as saying the alphabet backward while running in place. At any point, a driver may refuse an SFST or NSFST without facing automatic penalties.
Additionally, the officer may ask the driver to take a voluntary preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test often called a breathalyzer. A breathalyzer is a tool that’s shaped like a hand radio and has a small port for the driver to blow into. The process of blowing into the breathalyzer allows the machine to test someone’s blood alcohol content (BAC). If a driver’s BAC is above the legal driving, then they could possibly face criminal charges.
Every driver must abide by implied consent laws. Under implied consent laws, which state that drivers may face penalties for refusing a chemical test, drivers may refuse a PAS test. It is after a lawful arrest that a driver can’t refuse a chemical test (blood, breath or urine) without facing penalties. However, officers may obtain a search warrant during a traffic stop to enforce a chemical test.
If you believe your rights were violated after a traffic stop and you now face criminal charges, then you’ll need to be aware of your legal rights to build a strong defense. Speaking with a legal professional will be your first logical step forward.