Field Sobriety Tests

I recently worked on a case where a person faced legal consequences for not consenting to a field sobriety test. Field sobriety tests can take many forms, and you have the right to refuse the test. Keep reading to learn more about field sobriety tests, the different types of tests, and why you need a lawyer in cases involving field sobriety tests.

What is a field sobriety test?

A field sobriety test helps determine if a person has been driving while intoxicated or under the influence. If a law enforcement officer suspects that a person is driving under the influence, they will pull the person over and have the person complete a series of tasks to determine if they can continue driving.

Can I refuse a field sobriety test?

Implied consent to chemical tests is a state law that all drivers agree to recognize upon earning their driver’s license. Under O.C.G.A. § 40-5-55, any person who drives a motor vehicle on the highways or roadways throughout the state of Georgia gives consent to a chemical test or tests of their blood, breath, urine, or other bodily substances to determine the presence of alcohol or any other drug in their system. Drivers who refuse to submit to a chemical test such as a breathalyzer or blood test can have their license automatically suspended by the arresting officer. However, the law of implied consent only concerns chemical tests—it does not apply to field sobriety tests.

Therefore, if a driver refuses to consent to a field sobriety test, they cannot face immediate legal consequences such as an automatic suspension of their license because they refused. The driver has the right to refuse a field sobriety test because the evidence obtained from a field sobriety test can be used against the driver

However, if the driver refuses to do the field sobriety test this does not mean the driver is automatically free to go. The driver can still be arrested for a DUI if the responding officer believes the driver is intoxicated, and the officer can ask that the driver complete a chemical test rather than the field sobriety test.

Types of field sobriety tests

Some commonly used field sobriety tests include walking in a straight line and turning, and standing straight while placing one’s finger to their nose. Loss of balance or failure to follow directions during the field sobriety test might point to being under the influence and indicate to the officer that they should investigate further.

The National Highway Safety Administration allows three forms of field sobriety tests, including the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the one-leg stand, and the walk-and-turn tests.

The horizontal gaze nystagmus is a medical term to describe when a person’s eyeballs involuntarily jerk. To complete this test, the responding officer will hold a small object about a foot from the driver’s face and slowly move the object from side to side. If the driver’s eyeballs begin to jerk while trying to follow the object, this is a sign of intoxication.

The one-leg stand is used to measure a person’s balance. To complete this test, the officer will ask the driver to stand on one leg, hold their foot off the ground, and count to 30. If the driver hops, sways, skips, or falls, this may be a sign of intoxication.

The walk-and-turn test measures the driver’s ability to pay attention to instructions and balance. Before the test begins, the officer will explain how to complete the test and what the driver must do. After listening to the instructions, the driver must walk heel-to-toe in a straight line and then turn back around. If the driver sways, falls, fails to follow instructions, or uses their arms to balance themselves, this may be a sign of intoxication.

Why you need a lawyer if refusal of a field sobriety test is used against you

Failing a field sobriety test and having a DUI on your driving record can result in license suspension, fines, jail time, and more. If you are charged with a DUI after taking a field sobriety test, a criminal defense attorney can challenge the accuracy of the test. It is crucial that you have a criminal defense attorney on your side to avoid the negative legal consequences of a DUI.

You also have the right to refuse a field sobriety test and cannot be punished for not consenting to the test. If you are facing legal consequences for not completing a field sobriety test, a criminal defense attorney can help ensure you will not be punished unfairly.

Have questions? Give me a call.

Navigating the criminal legal system can be confusing. I have decades of experience fighting for clients at all stages of their cases, including clients subjected to field sobriety testing. I know the players in the Georgia criminal court, and I am here to help you throughout the life of your case. If you have questions about field sobriety testing or have legal questions, give me a call today!

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