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Field sobriety tests are voluntary

If law enforcement officers in Massachusetts ever suspect you of drunk or drugged driving, they will ask you to perform certain physical tests so that they can check you for impairment. These tests are called field sobriety tests. While the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration claims that these provide accurate measurements of impairment, the truth is, the results are often somewhat questionable due to their subjective nature.

What are the standard field sobriety tests? What are officers looking for when they administer these tests? Do I have to comply?

Standard field sobriety tests

You may have heard of various tests that officers use to check for impairment during a DUI traffic stop. Movies even make fun of many of these, such as saying the alphabet backward or the finger-to-nose test. The truth is, though, that there are only three field sobriety tests that are standard nationwide. These are:

  • The walk-and-turn test
  • The one-leg stand test
  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus

Officers are checking for two main things while administering these tests. First, they want to see if you can follow directions. Second, they want to see if you are physically capable of performing the task.

Do I have to comply?

By accepting a state driver's license, you technically agree to submit to sobriety testing through implied consent laws. However, an officer cannot force you to participate. You do, legally, have the right to refuse field sobriety tests and evidentiary breath tests. There are certain consequences for refusing, though, such as an automatic license suspension.

Refusing also does not mean that the officer will just let you go if he or she believes that you are driving under the influence. An officer may still arrest you, and you may still face criminal charges.

Get help fighting a DUI charge

Getting pulled over for suspected impairment can be a bit frightening, and remaining calm when it does happen can be a challenge. While many may think that complying with an officer's demands to submit to field sobriety tests is the best thing that they can do, sometimes refusing is really in their best interest. It is also your right. If police ultimately charge you for driving while impaired and refusing to submit to testing, an experienced attorney can assist you in fighting your case in court.

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Field sobriety tests are voluntary | Anthony M. Salerno, P.C.