Can I Refuse to Take a Field Sobriety Test?

What are Field Sobriety Tests?

Field sobriety tests are administered to gauge a motorist’s cognitive and physical functions to determine his or her level of impairment. Law enforcement authorities use the results of these tests as evidence against the driver in a DWI case.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the three scientifically validated standardized tests include:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test
  • One-Leg Stand Test
  • Walk-and-Turn Test

Refusing Field Sobriety Tests

Under North Carolina law, you cannot be forced to perform a field sobriety test and will not face an immediate suspension/revocation of your driver’s license. This is not the case for refusing to take a chemical test after a DWI arrest.

However, if you do refuse to take a field sobriety test, according to North Carolina General Statute § 20-139.1(f), your refusal is admissible in any criminal, civil, or administrative action against you later. In other words, the officer will not only be able to report that you refused the standardized field sobriety tests, but also be able to testify that you refused these tests at any hearing or trial in your case.

Furthermore, law enforcement will often use the refusal (along with any other observations related to intoxication) to either arrest you immediately for a DWI, or as the basis to justify a trip down to the police station for chemical testing. So if you elect to refuse a field sobriety test, understand the potential consequences and do so in a polite manner that does not make the situation worse.

If you have been arrested for a DWI in North Carolina, contact our Raleigh criminal defense attorneys at Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh today.


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