You have likely seen movies or television shows where a police officer performs a field sobriety test on someone suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol. The characters try to put a finger on their nose. Or they may try to walk heel-to-toe in a straight line. But what happens when a police officer pulls you over and asks you to perform field sobriety tests?
In Arizona, you must consent to chemical testing for alcohol. But you do not have to consent to field sobriety tests. Depending on your situation, you may want to refuse to take these tests if a police officer pulls you over.
What field sobriety tests can you face?
Field sobriety tests can include roadside tests, like standing on one leg or the walk-and-turn. The officer will judge if alcohol impairs your ability to perform these tests.
The officer may also use a hand-held breathalyzer to test your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). This hand-held device is not very accurate and is only used to see if the officer has probable cause to arrest you.
Field sobriety tests give an officer probable cause of DUI
When an officer pulls you over, he or she will need a reason to arrest you for a DUI. The officer may have already pulled you over under suspicion of driving drunk. Or the traffic stop may have been for a different infraction, like speeding or a broken taillight. Either way, the officer wants to gather as much evidence as possible before arresting you.
Field sobriety tests give police officers more probable cause to arrest you. When you consent to these tests, you can provide them with evidence to arrest you for a DUI. While they may not be able to use that evidence in court, they can defend their decision to arrest you. By agreeing to the tests, you may strengthen a case against yourself.
However, even if you refuse to take the tests, an officer can still arrest you for a DUI.
You can face penalties for refusing chemical tests
While you can legally refuse a field sobriety test, Arizona law requires you to consent to a chemical test after the arrest. The blood, breath or urine tests that police ask you to take are much more accurate than field sobriety tests, even though police can make mistakes when testing you.
If you refuse a chemical test, the arresting officer can suspend your license for at least a year.
You do not legally have to consent to field sobriety tests
When police pull you over on suspicion of DUI, they will try to build a case proving that you are driving over the legal limit. An officer will use field sobriety tests to build probable cause for arresting you.
You have the right to refuse to take these tests. While the officer may still arrest you, he or she has less evidence to hold against you.