Refusing to take field sobriety tests are up to the individual; however, there are certain advantages in refusing to take field sobriety tests at a DWI stop. In North Carolina, field sobriety tests are voluntary and drivers have the right to refuse to take any field sobriety tests. This does not apply to sobriety tests after the individual is arrested. If a driver refuses to take sobriety tests at a DWI stop, the driver may still be arrested for driving while impaired but it will not be because the driver refused the field sobriety tests.
What are Field Sobriety Tests?
Field sobriety tests are divided into two categories — pre-exit tests and standardized field sobriety tests. During pre-exit tests, the police officer asks the driver a series of questions. Questions may include “Have you been drinking?” and “Where have you been and where are you headed?” Officers may also ask the driver to say the alphabet, count, or take a finger dexterity test. You have the absolute right to refuse to answer these questions.
Standardized field sobriety tests consist of three tests developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The tests are administered by the police officer at a DWI stop and used to evaluate whether the driver is impaired by drugs and/or alcohol. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus or HGN test (an eye test), the Walk-and-Turn test, and the One-Leg Stand test are all voluntary field sobriety tests. The driver has the right to refuse to take these tests.
Why do Officers Use Field Sobriety Tests?
There are two purposes for using field sobriety tests at a DWI stop. The first purpose is to build a case for probable cause to make a DWI arrest. The second purpose is to gather as much evidence to use against the driver at a DWI trial. In both cases, refusing to take field sobriety tests makes it much more difficult for the state to prove their case for DWI.
Most people do not understand that field sobriety tests are voluntary in North Carolina. Police officers will not explain to the driver that he or she has the right to refuse these tests. In many cases, the officer will ask the driver to perform these tests in ways that make it appear as if the driver does not have a choice but to take the field sobriety tests.
Regardless of whether you take the field sobriety tests, our attorneys can help you prepare a strong defense to a DWI charge. DWI convictions result in severe penalties under North Carolina DWI laws. Do not risk your freedom – hire an experienced DWI attorney to defend you against an NC DWI charge.
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