What to Do (and Not to Do) If You Get Asked to Do a DWI Field Sobriety Test
You’ve had yourself a good, safe, and responsible night drinking your favorite drinks with your buddies. You made sure not to overdo it and get hammered.
But, you know you’re somewhat on the borderline. You could possibly have an over-the-limit BAC (Blood Alcohol Content). But maybe not. It’s close. You’re on the edge.
And then you get pulled over by the police. It’s 1:00 AM, so both you and they know full well what they’re suspecting you of.
After asking you basic questions about yourself, the officer asks you to do a field sobriety test. How should you respond?
1. Refusing a Field Sobriety Test Makes Sense, But It Carries Consequences
Remember, when the officer has you do a standardized field sobriety test (SFST), they are investigating you for a crime. Their job is to gather evidence on you so they can put you in jail and later get a conviction on the case.
A key component of convicting you lies in the results of your field sobriety tests and possibly a breath or blood test after you get arrested. However, you can, and should, politely refuse to take any and all of the tests. By refusing you are simply keeping any evidence that might look incriminating from them, which ultimately weakens the case against you.
Unfortunately, law enforcement has found a way around refusing to take a blood test. You may have heard of “No Refusal Weekends.” Nowadays police can get a search warrant that allows them to forcibly take your blood if you refuse to take the test when requested. The law allows for it now so you are wise to cooperate if they do get a warrant to take your blood.
Attorneys will tell you that it is in your best interest to refuse to take a field sobriety test. Remember, these tests are designed to make you fail. They ask you to perform awkward movements, like walking heel-to-toe with your arms at your side and turning in an odd fashion. Plus, you have to do this in front of the police and other cars passing by. That’s a high-pressure situation that makes even stone sober people nervous!
There is even one where they wave a pen in from of your face and are supposed to be able to tell if you are intoxicated by looking at your eyes.
Once you refuse, you’re probably going to go to jail and have your license suspended (initially) for 180 days to 2 years. While you have short-term consequences, refusing may save you from a successful prosecution down the road.
2. Only Answer These Three Questions
The officer has the right to know your name, address, and date of birth. Be kind and courteous as you offer that information. Remember, you’re on camera this whole time. And this evidence will be shown in court. A cooperative attitude makes you look good.
Once the officer asks you, ”Have you been drinking?” or, ”How many drinks have you had tonight, sir?” ask for an attorney instead. Those questions are designed to gather evidence against you. How you answer plays a large role in whether you’re successfully prosecuted.
A good criminal defense attorney can give the jury a compelling reason you decided not to answer.
3. Always be Polite
The officer may not carry a courteous attitude with you. The best advice here is to let it go, and continue to be calm and polite yourself. The officer’s demeanor can come back to bite him when your case goes to trial.
The Best Advice? Avoid Driving with Any Alcohol in Your Body
On the “No Refusal Weekends,” law enforcement can get ticky-tack with drinking and driving. Some are so overzealous that they might try to nail you with drunk driving charges, even if you only had 1 or 2 drinks during an afternoon barbecue at your neighbor’s house.
A DWI charge often costs $10,000 – $15,000 or more to defend. So, it makes sense to just avoid drinking any alcohol at all before driving, or to use a designated driver.