What are the DWI Field Sobriety Tests?
Officers administer field sobriety tests to DWI suspects to measure their physical and cognitive functions. This measurement determines the level of impairment. Authorities use the results as evidence in a future DWI case.
Police officers in different jurisdictions often administer different field sobriety tests FSTs). But according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are only three scientifically validated standardized tests:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test (DWI eye test)
- One-Leg Stand Test
- Walk-and-Turn Test (walking a straight line or heel-to-toe walk test)
Refusing Field Sobriety Tests
The Fifth Amendment gives suspects the right to remain silent. That right includes the right to refuse to perform FSTs. Additionally, people who refuse field sobriety tests do not face mandatory drivers’ license suspension. That’s not the case with chemical test refusal.
However, the refusal to perform FSTs is admissible in any administrative or judicial matter, per North Carolina General Statute § 20-139.1(f). So, if you refuse, officers can include the FST refusal in their reports and also testify about your refusal in criminal court. Furthermore, as a practical matter, officers often use FST refusal as an excuse to transport suspects to the station and administer chemical tests.
The critical element in all this is that refusing to perform FSTs deprives the state of evidence of intoxication. The less proof the state has, the easier it is for a Raleigh DWI attorney to get the case thrown out of court.
Nevertheless, if you refuse to perform FSTs, be sure you understand the ramifications of that refusal. And, always politely but firmly express your refusal. Do not deliberately antagonize officers, because if there is a confrontation, it can end very badly for everyone involved.