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  1. #1
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    Field Sobriety tests

    I was talking to a friend this weekend when she told me that she was arrested for DUI and taken to jail. I told her to stop driving drunk and that wont happen!

    Anyway, here is my question.

    Are we (citizens who are getting arrested) required by law to complete the field sobriety tests (I.E: Touch your nose to with your finger, walk a straight line)? If we refuse, would that be seen as "refusing a lawful order"? Ive always heard that the only thing that counts is the breathalizer. Is that true?
    Last edited by Tucker6900; 09-02-2008 at 09:43 AM. Reason: Clarification of question.
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    Quote Originally Posted by juicesnn4e2 View Post
    you can refuse the breathalyzier and automatically get 1 year lisence suspension
    I figured there was a difference between a field sobriety test and a breathalizer. Im asking about the "Field Sobriety Test", I.E: touch your nose with your finger, walk a straight line, say the alphabet backwards. Can you refuse THOSE tests without fear of getting another charge?
    Last edited by Tucker6900; 09-02-2008 at 09:42 AM.
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    Not sure about your state, but in Florida, you can refuse and you won't get in trouble for refusing. Although, you will most likely be arrested for DUI depending on other factors the officer weighs out at the time.

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    Certainly! You may refuse to take the Field Sobriety Tests; but, you will be arrested solely on the pre-stop observations of the officer and your post stop behavior and actions. There are two purposes for the FSTs:

    1. For the officer to gather information to bolster his/her opinions that you are under the influence of an alcoholic beverage;

    2. To eliminate the fact that there may be underlying reasons for your behavior and actions - which, by the way may lead to your release if you successfully pass the tests.

    Whether you take the tests or not, the officer will use all of his/her training and experience to assess your condition and will make a professional decision based on those factors. Probably a 99 to 1 chance the officer is wrong.

    The breathalyzer, blood test and/or urine tests are generally addressed in law and your refusal to submit to either of those tests will, without too much doubt, lead to the loss of your driving privileges for at least one year in addition to the conviction of DUI.
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    I guess that might depend on the state. In both states I have worked in (Virginia and North Carolina) you are not legally required to attempt any field sobriety tests. However, if you don't do them, you are guaranteed to be arrested.

    Some people actually do well enough on the field tests that we don't arrest them. If you don't do the tests we have to assume it is because you know you are too impaired to be driving.

    I've arrested a lot of people for DWI during my 12 years in law enforcement. Most of them attempted the tests, some refused to do so. Most that refuse the field tests also refuse the breath test. I'd be willing to bet that at least one or two of those folks were actually below a .08 and ended up getting convicted of DWI when if they had attempted the tests they might not have been arrested at all.
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    A good observant officer can always take you to jail for DUI. Even if you refuse to submit to field sobriety tests. Officers trained in this type of enforcement are experts, in determining impairment. Couple in years of experience with that training etc... You got a no-win situation for the driver. Alot of drivers out there think they can thumb their nose at the police and refuse to submit to tests; Thinking they'll get a pass. Big mistake.

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    You can refuse if you want...You are still gonna get arrested.

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    In NJ, you are not required to do them, but it will surely lead to an arrest if you refuse. I have had several DWI incidents where the driver refused to participate in the FST's and also refused to give (2) breath samples on the ALCOTEST. They were found guilty solely on my observations and the handy dandy MVR tape.

    Bottom line, your only hurting yourself if your refuse.

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    You don't have to submit to field sobriety to include the pre-lim breath test though we have to offer it to you'' it does'nt mean you will not get arrested though and then the actual admisible test at HQ you are required to take and if you don't you get charged with refusal as well. Experienced Officers don't need the results alone of any pre-lim test or required test if they can articulate that you had been drinking and it impaired your driving ofcourse it depends on the judge.
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    Thanks for the replies. While I woud never refuse a breathalizer, FST's seem like just technicality, especially if someone has already admitted to drinking.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tucker6900 View Post
    Thanks for the replies. While I woud never refuse a breathalizer, FST's seem like just technicality, especially if someone has already admitted to drinking.
    I have allowed people to leave based on their results from the FSTs. These are the few folks that actually had only 1 or 2 beers. It can be beneficial to do them if you truly did only drink a couple at the local restaurant and the officer asks you to submit to them because of the smell of an alcoholic beverage. When you only have a couple, most will not show many other indicators that we are looking for during our personal contact with you. Refusing to do the FSTs throws up red flags. Those that normally refuse them are folks with multiple DUI convictions and will refuse anything.

    As SgtCHP eloquently put it, we arrest based on the totality of circumstances and not solely on the results of the FSTs.

    p.s. No one that I am aware of uses the alphabet backwards routine. Sober people cannot do this. The NHTSA standardized tests are HGN, 9-step WAT, and OLS. Although not standardized, the finger to nose & Romberg are also tests that some may use, specifically DREs.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tucker6900 View Post
    Thanks for the replies. While I woud never refuse a breathalizer, FST's seem like just technicality, especially if someone has already admitted to drinking.
    Technically in my state they have to be offered. And it works out for both because Ive had many times had someone do well enough on the FST's that as a result I didn't arrest them and merely had them get someone else to drive but if you refuse and I pulled you over for clues to d.u.i and I confirm you have had any alcohol to drink wheter you submitt to FST's or not you are going to be arrested.
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    In MA you can refuse both tests...and more often than not also get arrested for OUI (what we call it). The mere fact that you refuse the breath test is grounds for some strict license suspensions imposed by the RMV. These suspensions range from a minimum of 180 days if over 21, 1 year if under 21, to life. It all depends on the number of OUI's you have on your record.

    By the way, the fact that you refuse the breath test is not admissible in a court of law in MA. That is correct, an officer can not testify to the fact that someone arrested for OUI refused to take the breath test. In MA, the breath test is merely a "request to submit to a chemical test to determine your blood alcohol level." Mere mentioning the refusal is grounds for a mistrial and likely a request for dismissal by a defense attorney. The only way to get the refusal in is if the DEFENSE attorney specifically asks if his or her client refused the breath test.

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    You can refuse them in Florida, but your refusal will be used against you in court. I usually let 1-2 people a week go home after they do field sobriety. I usually let them get a ride, even though i think they're below the legal limit, due to the stop and my observations that made me request the exercises, i feel a lot more comfortable with them getting a ride than driving.

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    I've never had a sober person not want or not try to prove their innocence!

    In AZ, like others have said you do not have to submit to the roadside field sobriety tests. If I arrest based on what I have already observed, you are going to be read the Admin Per Se affidavit. It completely explains, in very simple terms the repurcussions for not submit to test of my choosing. If you submit, and you are not over the limit, your license will not be suspended. However, if you refuse, no matter what your blood alcohol content level is, your license will be suspended for 12 months through the motor vehicles division regardless of the outcome of the DUI charge!
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    Quote Originally Posted by SgtScott31 View Post
    p.s. No one that I am aware of uses the alphabet backwards routine. Sober people cannot do this. The NHTSA standardized tests are HGN, 9-step WAT, and OLS. Although not standardized, the finger to nose & Romberg are also tests that some may use, specifically DREs.
    Funny that you mention that. The last DWI I arrested made a great statement to me when I asked her if she knew the alphabet (I ask suspects to say the alphabet without singing as part of my tests in addition to SFSTs). She said "You aren't going to make me say it backwards are you? I couldn't do that IF I was sober". I made sure to write that down. She ended up getting locked up for DWI.
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    Quote Originally Posted by juicesnn4e2 View Post
    if it was me, and i knew i was **** drunk, i woudlnt blow. and id refuse to take the tests. its gonna be alot harder for you to prove your case is court.
    If it were you, you would loose your license if you refused. I can assure you that an officer can articulate his observations in court to carry a conviction. I have only had to testify in (1) dwi trial, this is (1) out of 50 or so. The only reason I had to testify is because they were using what they call the "saperstein" defense, where a lawyer had a scientific defense that states that there was a -.02 percentage difference between the reading and the actual results. Clients pay huge amounts for this lawyer, but they usually won. In my case, I did not fight the defense,cause the law had just changed in NJ from .10 to .08. The guy was a .11 and it was lowered to .09, which was still over the limit, but a lesser penalty.

    Moot point though, cause we finally switched to ALCOTEST, which requires less human interaction and is computerized.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tucker6900 View Post
    I was talking to a friend this weekend when she told me that she was arrested for DUI and taken to jail. I told her to stop driving drunk and that wont happen!

    Anyway, here is my question.

    Are we (citizens who are getting arrested) required by law to complete the field sobriety tests (I.E: Touch your nose to with your finger, walk a straight line)? If we refuse, would that be seen as "refusing a lawful order"? Ive always heard that the only thing that counts is the breathalizer. Is that true?
    No requirement that you submit to either the standardized field sobriety tests or nystagmus or the preliminary breath test (PBT for short ... and your refusal of the PBT ... or it's result if taken is not to be used against you in a court here).

    Only the evidenciary breath or blood test is required under the implied consent law, and if you refuse it ... there is a charge of refusal that is made in addition to the DUI for which you were initially arrested. It carries it's own penalty if convicted. At trial, most every refusal I have ever had has plead guilty to the DUI and taken their medicine and we've nolle prossed the refusal.

    Last edited by t150vsuptpr; 09-03-2008 at 12:36 PM. Reason: added some clarification lacking initially.
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    It is not unusual for me to cut somebody loose after they do the field tests. We use the field tests to help establish probable cause for the arrest. If you do well enough and I don't establish the pc, off you go. I can think of several times over the years where somebody has refused the field tests, got arrested, and over the time I spend with them in processing, I have formed the (unspoken) opinion that they might not have got arrested if they had just done the stupid human tricks instead of refusing.

    I generally don't believe in having the ones who don't get arrested after the field tests call somebody else to drive them home. Either you have the pc to arrest or you don't. I guess it might be OK to phrase it as a suggestion, but I don't believe I can make it mandatory.

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    I prefer if they refuse. It saves tons of time. I just charge them with DUI and Refusal. (saves at least an hour here)

    If they have a lawyer with 1/2 a brain they plead guilty to DUI and the Refusal is dismissed (saves about 30 minutes in court).
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    By the way.. They aren't "Clients" or "Customers" they're CRIMINALS... sheesh

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    Quote Originally Posted by bucksone View Post

    I generally don't believe in having the ones who don't get arrested after the field tests call somebody else to drive them home. Either you have the pc to arrest or you don't. I guess it might be OK to phrase it as a suggestion, but I don't believe I can make it mandatory.
    Well, I've never said or even thought "If you don't get someone else to drive I'm taking you to jail." What I do say is "Well you're not too impaired to drive but I'd feel a lot better if you got a ride home." It hasn't not-worked yet.

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    Are we (citizens who are getting arrested) required by law to complete the field sobriety tests (I.E: Touch your nose to with your finger, walk a straight line)? If we refuse, would that be seen as "refusing a lawful order"? Ive always heard that the only thing that counts is the breathalizer. Is that true?
    You can't be forced to take the tests, but you can't pass a test you don't take. My view on the subject, why would a person who KNOWS he is under the limit not want to take the test and pass it? That's an admission that they know they've had too much and will fail. And it can be used against you in Arkansas.

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    Quote Originally Posted by t150vsuptpr View Post
    No requirement that you submit to either the standardized field sobriety tests or nystagmus or the preliminary breath test (PBT) ... and your refusal is not to be used against you in a court here.

    Only the evidenciary breath or blood test is required under the implied consent law,

    Thats exactly the answer I was looking for! Thanks suptpr!!
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10-31Mike View Post
    I prefer if they refuse. It saves tons of time. I just charge them with DUI and Refusal. (saves at least an hour here)

    If they have a lawyer with 1/2 a brain they plead guilty to DUI and the Refusal is dismissed (saves about 30 minutes in court).
    I hear you .......

    Never lost a DUI accompanied by a refusal yet. I don't state it to them, I read the implied consent, etc .... but usually I do not try to talk them into it. If they refuse, that's a decision that saves me time.

    If it's a fatality or serious injury accident involving others, I might give them a second chance to take the tests if I think they are near borderline.

    If soused, go with the refusal and thoroughly documented observations as taught years ago, I usually do not even offer SFSTs (I always thoroughly document my observations).

    Always offer the PBT if available (as it is here).
    "That's right man, we've got mills here that'll blow that heap of your's right off the road."

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    Drunk people will never make smart decisions. If they DID, they would politely refuse the filed sobriety tests on their first stop when they are drunk, and politely ask to take the breathalizer test. Then if they fail do the time and fine, then on subsequent stops refuse ANY tests of any kind, usually on a multiple OVI the penalty for refusal is less than an actual conviction.

    But that would require drunk people to do smart things, and they pretty much proved they cannot do smart things because they are driving drunk to begin with.

    From my own experience I know drunks get away with drunk driving about 300 times for every time they are arrested.

    Bill

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