Why You Should Always Refuse Field Sobriety Tests in Pennsylvania

Sobriety TestWe’ve all seen it on television or in the movies: a driver suspected of being drunk is asked to count backward or recite the alphabet backward, walk a straight line or stand on one leg, or hold their arms out to the sides with eyes closed and then touch their nose. Though field tests have changed somewhat, police are still conducting them – but that doesn’t mean that you should agree to participate. Any DUI lawyer will tell you that in the state of Pennsylvania, submitting to a field sobriety test is absolutely not required, and is something you should absolutely refuse to do.

There is some confusion as to what DUI lawyers recommend to those suspected of being intoxicated behind the wheel. Pennsylvania is an implied consent state, which means that you are legally required to consent to a chemical blood alcohol test – failure to do so after an arrest can lead to losing your driver’s license for a year, even if you pass the test. But there is no such requirement that you take a field sobriety test. There is also no requirement that you answer any of the police officer’s questions, though they may imply otherwise.

Field sobriety tests are different from chemical blood tests. Though the state can require a breath, urine or blood test, and prosecute you for failing to take it, you cannot be prosecuted for failing to take a field sobriety test. The reason that it is wise to refuse this test is that it is entirely subjective, and frankly can be difficult to do well on even when sober. If the officer says that you have failed, they then have probable cause for arresting you on DUI, but they do not have it for refusing a field sobriety test. This means that the officer will have to look for other indications of drunkenness before arresting you, such as the smell of alcohol on your breath, slurring your words, or acting aggressively. That’s why it’s a good idea to politely refuse to answer questions. Even if you are arrested for any of these factors, they hold up less in court than a failed field sobriety test.

Knowing your rights in the face of a potential DUI charge is essential, and so is having an experienced DUI lawyer on your side. Contact our office today to set up a convenient appointment to discuss your situation.