In order for an officer to arrest you for driving under the influence (DUI), they must have probable cause to believe you were impaired by alcohol. One way they try to obtain probable cause is by conducting roadside tests, which can include a breathalyzer test or field sobriety tests. Tennessee's implied consent law provides for consequences if you refuse a breath test at a traffic stop, but what happens if you refuse to participate in a field sobriety test?
There are three standardized tests, called the Walk and Turn, Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, and the One-Leg Stand. Some officers may conduct non-standardized tests, such as touching a finger to your nose or reciting the alphabet backward. Each of these tests has faults, and an officer's opinion of your performance is subjective. Therefore, many people consider a refusal.
Tennessee Law about Refusals
While there are penalties for refusing a chemical test, there are not similar automatic penalties for refusing a field sobriety test. This means you can refuse the test and not face additional refusal charges or administrative consequences, such as the suspension of your driver's license. While you have the right to refuse to participate in field sobriety tests, you should always do so in a polite manner.
Reasons You May Want to Refuse
Police officers are trained to administer field sobriety tests to each individual in the same manner. These tests do not account for age or physical differences, which can certainly affect your performance. In addition, these tests often occur on the shoulder of a road, which may have gravel or uneven ground. An officer may be shining a flashlight at you in the dark or may not explain the tests sufficiently for you to accurately follow instructions. Finally, any encounter with law enforcement officers can be stressful, and your nervousness or anxiety may affect your performance.
Some people believe they can prove they are sober by “passing” the field sobriety tests. However, these are not scientific tests, and the officer can decide you failed the test when you felt like you did everything right. In addition, the Tennessee Supreme Court has held that an officer can still arrest you even after you pass the tests. This is because an officer can cite other observations of intoxication aside from the field sobriety tests, such as slurred speech, the odor of alcohol, and more. If you did submit to a field sobriety test and were then arrested, there are ways that an experienced defense attorney can defend against the results reported by an officer.
Speak with a Murfreesboro Criminal Defense Lawyer
The experienced Murfreesboro criminal defense team at Taylor Law Group is ready to help. We help our clients defend against all types of criminal charges, so please do not wait to contact us online or call 615-890-1982 for a consultation.