Like most states, Georgia takes a hard stance when it comes to DUI offenses, and police officers are constantly on the lookout for impaired drivers. In fact, just here in Chatham county, police made over 120 DUI arrests in the last month alone. If you are pulled over and the officer suspects that you have been driving under the influence, they may ask you to perform a set of field sobriety tests that include:
- Standing on one leg
- Visually following a pen or the officer’s finger
- Walking heel to toe for a short distance
- Closing your eyes and touching your nose
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus (eye jerks while following a light)
Many drivers do not realize that they have the right to refuse field sobriety testing in Georgia. “But wait,” you say, “what about ‘implied consent?’” The confusion is understandable: refusing other sobriety tests, like a blood, breath, or urine test after they have been arrested can result in a one-year license suspension. This is because these tests chemically analyze a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) and are considered reliable enough to use in court. Field sobriety tests, on the other hand, lack a scientific basis and their results are not conclusive enough to serve as evidence. These tests are completely voluntary.
A Hidden Trap?
Field sobriety tests are basically designed to give a police officer grounds to arrest you for DUI. Balancing on one leg can be impossible for sober individuals, especially if the ground is wet, the pavement is uneven, or you are shivering in cold winds. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test, which is carried out to see if your eye jerks while following a bright light, is also inconclusive, as certain neurological conditions can cause the same reaction.
While failing a field sobriety test does not fast-track you to a DUI conviction, it can serve as grounds for a police officer to arrest you. The best way to handle such a situation is to refuse to take the test. You also have the right to refuse a preliminary roadside breath test, although if you are arrested you may not refuse to undergo a breathalyzer at the police station.
Consequences of Refusal
If the officer is not looking to make a DUI arrest and the results of your field sobriety test are acceptable, he or she may simply send you on your way. A refusal to take the test will almost certainly result in your arrest.
At the station, you will be subjected to chemical testing that you cannot refuse. When Georgia residents obtain their driver’s license, there is an understanding that they are automatically consenting in advance to any BAC or drug tests. Refusing any of these chemical tests can result in a “hard suspension” of your license, meaning that you cannot even apply for a restricted or special circumstances license. If you are convicted of DUI, the penalties could potentially be on the harsher side.
If you have been arrested for DUI in Georgia, call Savannah DUI today. The consequences of a conviction include a criminal record, increased auto insurance rates, and restricted employment and education opportunities, so let us use our expertise and experience to achieve the best resolution for your case.