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Can you refuse to do a field sobriety test?

On Behalf of | May 29, 2023 | DUI |

Understanding one’s rights is essential in any police interaction.

When it comes to DUI stops in Virginia, knowing whether a person can refuse to participate in a field sobriety test often tops the list of uncertainties. This article helps to explain whether or not a driver can refuse to do a field sobriety test.

Understanding field sobriety tests

Field sobriety tests are common procedures during DUI stops. The police may ask a driver to perform certain physical or cognitive tasks that help ascertain potential impairment due to alcohol or drugs. Virginia uses the standardized field sobriety tests endorsed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, the Walk-and-Turn test and the One-Leg-Stand test.

The right to refuse field sobriety tests in Virginia

In Virginia, drivers have the right to refuse participation in field sobriety tests. Unlike breath tests, which fall under implied consent laws and carry penalties for refusal, SFSTs do not. Consequently, drivers can refuse these tests without legal consequences directly from the refusal itself.

Implications of refusing field sobriety tests

While a driver can refuse to participate in a field sobriety test, this decision may influence the officer’s suspicion of impairment. The refusal might contribute to an officer’s decision to arrest the driver based on other observations, such as the smell of alcohol, erratic driving or the driver’s demeanor.

It is also important to understand that while refusing the test may avoid potential self-incrimination, it does not guarantee avoiding an arrest or charges. If an officer has other grounds to believe the driver is drunk, or otherwise impaired, they can still make an arrest without the results of a field sobriety test.

Understanding implied consent for breath tests

Even though the refusal to participate in SFSTs carries no penalty, Virginia’s implied consent law requires drivers to submit to breath or blood tests when arrested on suspicion of DUI. A refusal can result in penalties, including license suspension and fines.

It is essential for drivers to stay informed about these rights and possible consequences to make the best decisions during a DUI stop in Virginia.