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Should I refuse field sobriety tests?

If police stop you for suspected OUI/DUI, one question you may have is whether you should participate in field sobriety tests, including the one-leg-stand test, the walk-and-turn test as well as the test in which police instruct you to look straight ahead and follow a pen or finger with your eyes.

The first thing you need to remember is that all field sobriety tests are completely voluntary in Massachusetts - meaning you have a right to refuse them if you like. In fact, there are several reasons why it is a good idea to refuse field sobriety tests, including:

  • The tests will be used against you: Make no mistake, police officers are not your friends. From the moment they pull you over, they are looking for evidence to use against you. In some instances, they already know they are going to arrest you on OUI/DUI charges, and they simply ask you to perform field sobriety tests so they have more evidence to convict you. Don't help them build their case.
  • The tests are often difficult to perform: Even if you are sober, field sobriety tests can be hard to perform, especially if you are not in shape or have some type of physical impairment or disability. Being tired or having to perform the tests in windy, cold or icy conditions can also impact the results, not to mention that some people are simply not as coordinated as others.
  • The tests are voluntary: This point is so important that it needs to be mentioned again. Police will not tell you that field sobriety tests are voluntary, and in many instances, they will make you feel like you have no other choice, which simply isn't the case. Also, if you do refuse, prosecutors cannot admit evidence of this refusal in court. Not only that, but the jury will not even be told that you were offered the tests in the first place, let alone refused.

Ultimately, if you decide to refuse field sobriety tests, tell police in a polite, yet firm, manner that you do not wish to participate. If they still arrest you and charge you with OUI/DUI, you need to seek legal guidance from an experienced attorney as soon as possible.

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