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Can You Refuse a Field Sobriety Test?

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are a nightmare scenario for many drivers, but you may be able to legally refuse to perform one.

Refusing Breathalyzers and blood tests will likely result in the automatic suspension of your license, but the same may not be true for FSTs. There may be other practical and legal consequences for refusing to try to balance along the side of the road, but it may a driver's best legal option.

So can drivers legally refuse a field sobriety test?

You Can Refuse Everything, Unless a Warrant Is Involved

When you are pulled over by an officer on suspicion of drunken driving, the officer may attempt to subject you to FSTs, Breathalyzer tests, or even blood tests to determine your sobriety. You may legally refuse to take any of these tests, unless the officer has a warrant. Even on a "no refusal" weekend, you may legally refuse to submit to a FST or breath/chemical test performed by officers.

However, if the officer is able to obtain a warrant after you refuse (which they may do over the phone with a judge during a "no refusal" weekend), you can be legally forced to submit to a blood test.

Is Refusing a Field Sobriety Test the Same as Refusing a Breathalyzer?

Yes and no. Refusing FSTs or Breathalyzer tests are both very likely to get you arrested for drunken driving. As a practical measure, officers will not give any deference to drivers who refuse (even politely) any sort of sobriety test. However, the legal consequences of refusing a field sobriety test are typically different than refusing a Breathalyzer.

In all states, the implied consent laws mandate that drivers have their licenses administratively suspended for refusing a blood or Breathalyzer test. These laws do not require you to submit to a field sobriety test, nor do they mandate penalties if you refuse one. In most states, your license will not be suspended for refusing to perform a field sobriety test.

Can You Still Be Arrested If You Refuse FSTs?

Field sobriety tests are used as somewhat reliable tests for separating those who are legally intoxicated and those who are sober enough to drive. However, an officer may still have enough probable cause to arrest you for drunken driving simply based on observing your appearance (slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, odor of alcohol, difficulty standing, etc.) even if you refuse a field sobriety test.

If you have more questions about how refusing a field sobriety test may affect your DUI case, consult with a DUI attorney today.

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