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Can you refuse to take a field sobriety test?

In North Carolina, there are many tools that law enforcement agents use to determine whether someone is driving drunk. Field sobriety tests are often used when drivers are first pulled over.

Field sobriety tests are considered an investigative aid. Police can use them to help determine if someone may be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These tests are used to decide if further testing is needed, like a blood test or a breathalyzer test. The three standard tests used across the country include:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN): If your eyes jerk as they follow the officer’s finger, it is a signal that you may be impaired.
  • Walk-and-turn: If you are unable to follow the officer’s specific directions – when to start, how far to walk, when to turn around – this may indicate impairment.
  • One-leg stand: If you are unable to balance on one leg, you may be buzzed or worse.

These field sobriety tests are imperfect. Some go so far as to say they are unreliable and inadmissible in court. Even so, if you refuse to take the tests when pulled over, there may be consequences to pay. Refusing to take a field sobriety test doesn’t keep you safe from arrest. A drunk driving charge is still possible if there is other evidence showing that you have been drinking.

What to do after an arrest

Even if you are arrested and charged with a DUI or DWI in North Carolina, you can still fight the charges. These field tests can be challenged. Don’t think you have to just take what the police are dishing out.

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