DUI Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs)
DUI Field Sobriety Tests: What are they are can you say no?
If you are stopped by police and suspected of DUI or OVWI (operating while intoxicated), you may wonder what rights you have during the encounter with police. Specifically, one question that is asked over and over is whether you will be asked to perform the Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) and if so, can you refuse? The short answer is yes, you will probably be asked to complete the field tests and yes, you are allowed to refuse the SFSTs.
When a police officer stops a car and suspects the driver of operating while intoxicated, one of the first things the officer may do is ask the person to exit the car and perform a series of tests. These tests are referred to as Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs).
The DUI field sobriety tests are typically comprised of three parts. The first, the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (HGN) requires you to follow a pen held by the officer (or the officer’s finger) with your eyes. The officer will watch your eyes to track them and look for cues that may indicate intoxication, depending on how your eye reacts to the movement. The second test, the One Leg Stand test, requires you to stand on one foot for 30 seconds while counting out loud. If you miss count or put your foot down, those are a few clues the officer will look for. The third test, the Nine Step Walk and Turn test, requires the officer to read you instructions and you will then be asked to follow those instructions, having you walk in a straight line while touching your feet heel to toe and turn around and walk back. There are a few other tests that they officer may use, as well, but these are the most common.
However, knowing what to expect doesn’t make these tests any less scary. Being stopped, often at night, and standing on the side of the road with cars driving past while performing these tests can be nerve wracking. Even a completely sober person can fail them for a number of reasons. The police and prosecutors rely on them, but that doesn’t mean they are 100% reliable.
Knowing that, you may be surprised to find out that you are not required to perform the Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) if you are stopped by police and suspected of DUI or OVWI in Indiana. Unlike the certified breath test or blood draw that carry pretty strict penalties if refused (due to the implied consent laws) the SFSTs are not mandatory. While the officer may pressure you to perform the tests, you are allowed to politely state that you do not feel comfortable performing them and decline the tests. However, keep in mind that if you do decline the SFSTs, the officer will almost certainly ask you to take a breathalyzer or blood draw, which, if refused, can lead to your driver’s license being suspended for one year or more.
Even though it may be legal to refuse the DUI Field Sobriety Tests, it may not always be the best option. It is important to consider all of the facts when deciding whether to comply with the officer’s request or not. This information should not be considered legal advice and it is important to contact a lawyer right away if you have been accused of DUI or OVWI in Indianapolis or any of the other central Indiana counties.
Every DUI case is different and many factors can dramatically change the course of your defense strategy. Julie Chambers can provide competent, professional advice and representation. Chambers Law Office represents clients throughout central Indiana, including Marion County (Indianapolis), Hamilton, Hancock, Johnson, Madison, Hendricks and Boone Counties.