During a traffic stop, a police officer may ask a motorist to submit to a Breathalyzer test and various field sobriety tests if they suspect the driver is driving while under the influence of alcohol. The results of these tests are often used as evidence to convict a driver on drunk driving charges. However, drivers should know that they can refuse to submit to any of these tests, as long as they are willing to accept the consequences for doing so.
What is a field sobriety test?
The Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) is a three-part test during which drivers will be evaluated on their ability to perform various tasks to determine whether they are impaired. The three parts are:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus – The officer will hold a small object in front of the driver and move it from side-to-side, requesting that the driver follow the object with his or her eyes. A lack of smooth pursuit, eye jerking when the eye is at maximum deviation, and eyes-jerking within 45 degrees of the center may be signs of impaired driving.
- Walk and Turn – The officer will ask a driver to walk in a straight line, heel-to-toe, taking nine steps forward and then back. The driver’s inability to balance, failure to follow directions, or failure to walk in a straight line could be signs of impairment.
- One-Leg Stand – The officer may ask a driver to hold one foot six inches for 30 seconds. Using arms for balance, hopping, or putting the foot down could be signs of impairment.
Unlike with a Breathalyzer refusal, refusing a field sobriety test will not result in an automatic license suspension in Indiana. However, even if you refuse these tests, you may still be arrested and charged with driving under the influence based on the officer’s observations and other factors. A criminal defense attorney can review the circumstances of your case and advise you on your legal options.