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What Happens If I Fail a Field Sobriety Test?


If you fail a field sobriety test, you are likely to be arrested for a suspected DUI. At this point, you must submit to a chemical test of your breath or blood or incur a license suspension if you refuse – even if you aren’t ultimately convicted for DUI.

Police officers use field sobriety tests to establish probable cause, which gives them the authority to enact an arrest for suspected DUI. The problem with field sobriety tests, however, is that they can generate false positives very easily. In other words, it doesn’t take much for a perfectly sober person to fail a sobriety test and get arrested.

The Problem with Field Sobriety Tests

The main problem with field sobriety tests is that they aren’t scientific. At best, they’re theatre to make a person feel confident that they can demonstrate their sobriety by performing a few “simple” tasks.

These tasks often include the following:

  • The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, which involves tracking a light or pen in a police officer’s hands with your eyes. The officer looks for muscle jerks in the eyes as evidence of impairment.
  • The Walk-and-Turn Test, which requires someone to walk heel-to-toe for a specified number of paces, turn around, and repeat the task. The officer looks for problems with balance or following their instructions as evidence of impairment.
  • The One Leg Stand Test, which involves standing on one leg for a certain number of seconds with the opposite raised at a certain distance from the ground. The officer looks for problems maintaining balance as evidence of impairment.

If you thought to yourself “wow, I can see how I’d mess that up,” then you probably understand the inherent problems with these tests. Eyeball spasms have multiple common causes that have nothing to do with sobriety; balance tests incorrectly assume all people have a level of fitness that allows them to balance; and police officers may not be clear (whether intentionally or not) with their instructions, which can cause anyone to fail any of these field sobriety tests.

You Don’t Have to Submit to a Field Sobriety Test

It can be very intimidating to refuse to take a field sobriety test when a police officer asks, but it’s your right to decline one. Unlike a breathalyzer or blood test, there is no legal consequence you can face for refusing a field sobriety test.

Keep in mind, however, that a police officer may find another reason to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest. For example, the officer may claim they smelled alcohol on your breath or heard you slur your speech. In these cases, you can be arrested without ever performing a field sobriety test.

Ultimately, though, it’s in your best interest to decline a field sobriety test whenever asked to perform one. In the best-case scenario, the police officer lets you go without an arrest. If you do submit to a field sobriety test, not only can the police officer arrest you based on the results, but the results can also be used to convict you in court.

Arrested for DUI? We Can Help.

If you are arrested for DUI under any circumstances, our attorneys at Orr Law Firm can help. With many years of combined experience, our dedicated advocates have what it takes to help our clients secure a better outcome.

Learn more about how we can help you during a free initial consultation. Contact us today to arrange yours.