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Why Should I Refuse Field Sobriety Tests?

If you are pulled over by a police officer and they suspect you of driving under the influence, then you will most likely be asked to perform the standardized field sobriety tests (SFST). There are at least a dozen variations of these tests but the standard three are: horizontal gaze nystagmus (i.e. follow my finger test), single leg stand, and heel-to-toe walk and turn.

If you take these SFSTs you will most likely fail. The scoring of the test is left entirely up to the investigating officer and chances are if he has asked you to perform the SFSTs then he has already decided to arrest you. By performing the SFSTs you are only giving the police officer, and ultimately the prosecutor, more evidence to use against you at trial.

It’s important to note that laws and procedures can vary by jurisdiction, so it’s crucial to consult with a legal professional who is familiar with the specific laws in your area. That being said, your statement outlines some general principles related to field sobriety tests and DUI (driving under the influence) stops. Here are some points to consider:

Voluntariness of SFSTs

In many jurisdictions, field sobriety tests (such as the ones you mentioned) are indeed considered voluntary. However, refusing them may still have consequences, such as potential arrest based on other observations made by the officer.

Refusal and Consequences

While refusing field sobriety tests might not result in the immediate loss of a driver’s license, it could lead to other consequences, such as arrest or the officer relying on other observed behaviors as probable cause. Refusing a breath or blood test, on the other hand, can have immediate and serious consequences, including license suspension.

Use of SFSTs as Evidence

If you perform poorly on field sobriety tests, the results may be used as evidence against you in court. However, it’s crucial to understand that these tests are not foolproof, and there can be various reasons for someone to perform poorly, including factors unrelated to alcohol impairment.

Legal Representation

Consulting with a DUI defense attorney is advisable if you are facing charges. They can provide guidance on the specific laws in your jurisdiction, advise you on the best course of action, and help build a defense strategy tailored to your case.

Communication with the Officer

If you have a medical condition that could affect your performance on field sobriety tests, it’s advisable to communicate this to the officer at the time. However, the effectiveness of raising this issue later may vary depending on the circumstances.

The SFSTs are voluntary, and refusing them will not result in losing your driver’s license. This is different from refusal of a breath or blood test, which does result in losing your driver’s license. If you have a medical condition that would prevent you from doing the tests, make sure to tell the police officer at the time he asks you to take the SFSTs. Bringing up that concern at a later stage may lack credibility and could be perceived as an attempt to justify your actions. Your decision not to participate in the SFSTs can be used as evidence against you in court, but your DUI defense attorney can assist in providing an explanation to the jury. This approach is typically more advantageous for your case than allowing the prosecutor to inform the jury about your performance on the SFSTs.

When faced with the prospect of undergoing standardized field sobriety tests (SFST) during a traffic stop for suspected driving under the influence, individuals should carefully consider their options. While these tests may seem obligatory, it is crucial to recognize that they are voluntary, and participation is not mandatory. Taking the SFSTs might not work to your advantage, as the officer’s subjective scoring and potential preconceived notions could lead to unfavorable outcomes.

It’s crucial to recognize that the choice to undergo SFSTs is at the discretion of the individual, and declining these tests doesn’t lead to an immediate suspension of a driver’s license, unlike refusing a breath or blood test. It is recommended to inform the police officer about any medical conditions that could affect test performance when the request is made. Providing this information promptly enhances credibility, while raising such concerns later might be interpreted as an effort to justify one’s actions.

Ultimately, refusing the SFSTs may be a strategic choice, as it denies the prosecution additional evidence that could be used against the individual in court. While refusal can be brought up during trial, a skilled DUI defense attorney can effectively explain the decision to the jury, potentially yielding a more favorable outcome than if the prosecutor were to highlight perceived shortcomings in SFST performance. In navigating the complexities of a DUI arrest, informed and calculated decisions can significantly impact the course and outcome of legal proceedings.

Do you have further questions or concerns? Call us or contact the attorneys at Thomas & Ahnell, LLC, and we will be happy to help.

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