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Refusing field sobriety tests

On Behalf of | Dec 19, 2022 | DUI

Law enforcement in North Dakota is concerned with keeping roads and streets safe for all. Sometimes, they will pull over a driver under suspicion of driving under the influence and ask the driver to perform field sobriety tests to determine their level of intoxication. However, no laws require that people perform field sobriety tests, but it helps to have an understanding of what can happen if someone refuses the test.

Elements of field sobriety tests

Officers use three primary methods to conduct field sobriety tests, and they are:

  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus test that measures the involuntary jerking of the eyes when a person tries to follow an object without moving their head.
  • The walk-and-turn test that helps determine whether the suspect can follow directions and remain steady on their feet.
  • The one-leg stand test, which officials use to measure balance and coordination.

Other methods include reciting the alphabet backward or counting backward from 100. Any slip-up by the suspect during any of the tests will provide officers with cause to arrest the individual for DUI.

Are the tests objective?

Defense attorneys routinely challenge field sobriety tests for a number of reasons. To pull a driver over for suspected DUI, an officer would already have probable cause that the driver was intoxicated, such as they swerved across lines of traffic or committed other moving violations. Additionally, an officer may smell alcohol on the driver’s breath after pulling them over for another reason. Regardless, officers often use field sobriety tests to obtain further evidence of their intoxication and arrest them.

Although the tests are standardized and designed to be objective, there is a considerable discrepancy between how officers conduct and evaluate the tests.

The legal repercussions of refusing the test

If a driver refuses the test, the officer will likely conduct a Breathalyzer at the scene, or they will take the driver to the police station to perform more stringent tests. Additionally, many officers will arrest drivers who passed a field sobriety test anyway if they feel they have been drinking.

Whether having refused the test or not, anyone in North Dakota arrested on DUI charges should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney at the first opportunity.


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