Field sobriety tests are an unreliable yet incredibly popular way for police officers to confirm their suspicion of DUI. Individuals often think they have no choice but to submit to these tests. Or at least, officers imply that there will be negative consequences if they decline testing.
Do You Have the Right to an Attorney During a Sobriety Test?
Since a field sobriety test is part of an investigation, some wonder if they have a right to an attorney before taking the test.
In truth, you technically only have the right to an attorney when you are already under arrest or are being compelled to comply with a chemical breath, urine, or blood test. Since the officer is only informally detaining you during the field sobriety test, you do not have an inherent right to an attorney.
However, you may ask for an attorney at that time. The police officer has the option to grant your request or to delay it until you are officially under arrest. Further, and more importantly, you can refuse to take a field sobriety test.
If you are interested in learning more about your legal rights during a DUI stop or have questions about a recent arrest, speak to an experienced Pennsylvania DUI lawyer near you. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation over the phone, video chat, or in person with Steven E. Kellis when you call (215) 977-4183 or contact us online.
Why You Should Always Refuse a Field Sobriety Test
One of the most troubling things about law enforcement and its impact on our culture is the idea that it is in your best interest to comply with a police officer’s every request. We are led to believe that if we are friendly and yield to them, they will be more lenient.
Worse, there’s the idea that if we complicate a police officer’s job in any way – such as by refusing to answer basic questions – then we somehow deserve to be treated more roughly or that we will justifiably be punished with harsher charges.
First, how an officer decides to respond to you is their own decision. Don’t think you are being careless by enforcing your rights. Second, know that any information you give an officer can only hurt your case, not help it. Even answering what seems like a simple question can complicate your ability to contest your DUI charges in court later on, as is your legal right.
In the context of field sobriety tests, many people think, “How hard can it be?” They assume that they will be able to pass the test with flying colors, giving officers less of a reason to arrest them compared to if they refused the test.
In truth, field sobriety tests are ridiculously bad at detecting alcohol intoxication or drug use. Not only that, but they are also highly subjective. Once an officer has it in their head that you are likely to be DUI, anything you do during the test is going to count as evidence of your intoxication.
In short, you’re just giving officers more evidence to use against you.
So, while you cannot refuse a chemical, blood, or urine test without facing penalties, you can refuse a field sobriety test based on the 5th amendment because it may be used to incriminate you.
Reasons a Sober Person Might Fail a Field Sobriety Test
The worst part about field sobriety tests is that they are full of uncontrolled variables that lead to inaccurate results.
“It is important to remember that the field sobriety tests are not conducted in a sterile laboratory under ideal conditions,” writes LexisNexis, a resource for those in the law profession. “Instead, the tests often are administered late at night on uneven roads and in poor lighting.”
LexisNexis continues to say that, “the driver may have trouble maintaining balance or following instructions as a result of these conditions and not because he or she is intoxicated or impaired,” in addition to the fact that, “the driver’s choice of footwear will impact his or her ability to properly complete the walk and turn or one-leg stand test, which may cause the officer to interpret this as evidence of intoxication.”
Assert Your Rights During a DUI Stop, Ask for an Attorney
Because of all these factors, an individual is better off not giving a law enforcement officer the chance to misinterpret field sobriety results or use their bias to arrest you. Defend your rights during a DUI stop by politely refusing.
Refusing a field sobriety test could feasibly be used as evidence of guilt by the prosecution. If you are angry or erratic in any way during your refusal, your emotional behaviors will definitely be brought up by the prosecution as evidence of you being under the influence.
Unfortunately, because you aren’t being placed under arrest and aren’t being compelled to take an invasive test, you don’t have an intrinsic right to an attorney during a field sobriety test. But the test is 100% voluntary, and you always have the option to refuse to answer questions or submit to anything that isn’t specifically required by law.
If you find yourself in a sticky situation, don’t hesitate to ask for a Pennsylvania DUI lawyer. If you’re arrested or being persuaded to take a chemical test, wait as long as possible for a lawyer before you say or do anything else. You can reach the office of Steven E. Kellis at any time when you call (215) 977-4183 or contact us online. Keep that number on hand in case you ever get into any legal trouble on Pennsylvania’s roads.