But that what usually leads to being asked to step out of the car. People are very compliant and they’re intimidated and nervous. People do not refuse to do the field sobriety test BECAUSE they’re not told that they can refuse.
The law doesn’t require them to be told that they can refuse. Because if the police don’t have field sobriety tests to judge your behavior, in my opinion, that lack of evidence would point to a weaker case against you.
You’ll find that to be very common in a case where there’s an accident and the police have to take the driver straight to the hospital. They don’t have the chance to perform a field sobriety test. The driver might have the symptoms of drinking, such as an odor of alcohol and bloodshot watery eyes and they may even have alcohol in a blood or urine test BUT since the police didn’t perform a field sobriety test, there could be a weaker case against this driver.
Interviewer: Well, I’m sure the police don’t ask as if you have the option to refuse. It’s usually phrased not as a question but as an order.
Carl: I think that’s absolutely correct. I also believe that the people are compliant because they think it might go easier on them.
Just to get you to come full circle with the field sobriety, tests I’ll explain the other two standard ones then I’ll just touch on the ones that aren’t so standard. Is that all right?
Interviewer: Yes, that is good.
Carl: Okay. There are two other standard field sobriety tests. When I say standard, I’m talking about the National Highway Safety Administration standard tests that are supposed to be given, besides the HGN test.
Additional Field Sobriety Tests
The next test is the one leg stand. It’s a standard test where people are told to stand in one spot to lift their leg six inches off the ground to count while keeping their balance with their arms at their sides until they’re told to stop counting.
The last one people are very familiar with is the walk and turn or walk a straight-line test. Very often there’s not a line but the ground is supposed to be flat and dry, and if women are wearing high heels, the officer may or may not let them know that they could remove their heels if it makes them more comfortable to do so. The driver is instructed to walk the straight line, nine steps out and nine steps back, then pivot on the other side and walk heel to toe.
Some officers do what’s called what is called the Romberg test. This is where the driver would lean his or her head back and touch their nose. Also, alphabet tests are very common but are not standard. That test can give the officer at least an indication of whether they have an intoxicated driver who then might be asked to take the alco test.
How to Refuse FSTs (Field Sobriety Tests)
Interviewer: How do you refuse the tests? Would you say I’m not doing that or would you say I respectfully decline to take these tests? What’s a good way to refuse?
Carl: Well, the best way is to use as polite language as you can. Say, “I respectfully decline and I don’t wish to take that.”
A big mistake would be something like, “Well I’m too drunk to do that.” I’ve seen people say, “I don’t think I could pass that” and obviously that’s a mistake. So, be as brief and polite as possible.
Interviewer: Are there any penalties for that? Is there a charge for refusal or are there any negative consequences for that?
Carl: There’s a slight possibility that a judge might consider that to be a negative inference and count it against you at a trial. It’s very rare.
By Carl Spector