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When can you refuse a sobriety test? 

On Behalf of | Jan 10, 2023 | OWI

When someone is pulled over during a traffic stop, it’s often likely because the police have reasonable suspicion to do so. One such reason may be that the police may suspect a driver is operating their vehicle while intoxicated, especially if they see the driver violate a traffic law or recklessly drive in such a way that might endanger other drivers and civilians.

Law enforcement should be trained to perform sobriety tests on drivers that are suspected to be drunk. The police may use one or both tools: standardized field sobriety test (SFST) or breathalyzer. 

Many people believe they have the right to refuse any form of sobriety test. Is that true, however? The following explains your right to refuse sobriety tests:

You can refuse an SFST without repercussion

A standardized field sobriety test is a physical evaluation. Police may ask the driver to do the following SFSTs:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus: the police watch for rapid eye movement while asking the driver to focus on a single point. 
  • Walk-and-turn test: the driver is asked to walk in a straight line and return to where they started, which the police evaluate their movements
  • One-legged stand test: the driver is asked to stand on one leg and police judge the responsiveness

It’s often understandable when people want to refuse SFSTs and they do have a right to refuse so without repercussions. These tests are only graded on an officer’s best judgment and can result in inaccurate results. As such, medical conditions or other ailments may cause an officer to misjudge a test. 

You could face charges for refusing a Breathalyzer

Unlike a standardized field sobriety test, a Breathalyzer or breath alcohol test can’t be refused. This is because, under implied consent laws, drivers are required to take these chemical tests when asked in order to keep their licenses. Drivers can refuse these tests, however, they will face charges, fines and possibly incarceration.

Drivers who are facing an OWI charge should have an understanding of their legal rights. That’s the number one way to best participate in your own defense.