Knowing Your Rights During a Field Sobriety Test
If you’ve been pulled over and the police officer suspects you of drunk driving, they are likely going to ask you to perform one or more field sobriety tests. These tests are used throughout Georgia, and throughout the country, to help officers decide whether or not someone is intoxicated enough to charge with a DUI.
However, most of these tests are notoriously unreliable as they oftentimes depend on physical abilities that individuals may not have whether they are sober or not. They can also be impacted by one’s use of completely legal prescription drugs, and they are entirely subjective—leaving the test “results” up to an officer who already suspects you of drinking and is biased against you.
Examples of Field Sobriety Tests Used in Georgia
While an officer can ask you to perform many different activities as part of a field sobriety test, there are several standard tests that have been developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). They include:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) – This test requires the subject to follow an object in the officer’s hand with their eyes, checking for smooth pursuit of the object.
- Rhomberg Test – The subject must stand with their feet together, tilt their head up facing the sky with arms extended and eyes closed, and estimate the passage of time—usually about 30 seconds.
- One-Leg Stand Test – You will be asked to stand on one leg for a period of time while the officer evaluates your balance.
- Walk & Turn – The officer will ask you to walk on a straight line, then turn around, without stepping off the line.
- Finger-to-Nose – Drivers must extend their arms and touch the tip of their nose with their index finger.
- Counting/Alphabet Backwards – A driver may be asked to count or recite the alphabet in reverse.
You are NOT Required to Comply
When the officer asks you to perform the aforementioned types of field sobriety tests, they will make it sound as if you are obligated to comply. The law states, however, that you are not required to perform any of these types of physical tests. If you do decline to take them, the officer may further suspect you of drinking, and demand that you take a field breathalyzer test. You have the right to refuse a field breathalyzer as well, which is also notoriously inaccurate.
These refusals may, in the officer’s mind, provide enough evidence to arrest you for a DUI. However, it is normally a good idea to decline to take these roadside tests and deny them extra hard evidence against you—especially if you have indeed been drinking.
By declining these field tests, you are ‘buying time’ before you are asked to take a more accurate chemical test like a breathalyzer or a blood test after arriving at the police station. This added time can, in some situations, be sufficient to allow your BAC to drop below the legal limits. Keep in mind that you can refuse to take an in-station breathalyzer, blood test, or a urine test, but if you do, Georgia’s implied consent laws will require that you have your license automatically suspended for one year.
If you have any further questions about field sobriety tests, or you’ve been charged with a DUI, please contact us right away. Our team of experienced attorneys will help you to understand your rights, and we can craft an effective defense based on your specific situation.