“Can I refuse to do a field sobriety test?” is a question that we get all the time. Most of the time, people aren't aware that they have the right to refuse a field sobriety test. They'll call and say, “I didn't know; the police officer didn't tell me I had a right to refuse. I thought I had to do it.” In this blog post, we will explain the right to refuse field sobriety tests, how to handle this refusal, and how some field sobriety tests can be invalidated in court.
Your Right to Refuse to Do a Field Sobriety Test
In Georgia, you have a right against compelled self-incrimination. This right includes not only admitting that you did or didn't do something — it also means that you can't be compelled to do certain acts. Field sobriety tests are included in this right because the results may be used in a court of law to prove your guilt.
How You Handle Your Refusal Matters
When asked to perform a field sobriety test, you can legally say, “No sir” or “No ma'am, I don't want to do that.” If you tell them, “You can't make me,” then you'd be correct. Of course, it's important not to be rough about it because they may put you in handcuffs. While the First Amendment protects the right to free speech, this right is not unlimited — for example, you aren't allowed to yell “fire” in a public place. Anything considered “fighting words” said to a police officer counts as disorderly conduct, which is considered a misdemeanor.
“Fighting words” are not specifically outlined in the Georgia Code, but there are general guidelines for them. Georgia Code § 16-11-39 (2022) defines them as “words which as a matter of common knowledge and under ordinary circumstances will, when used to or of another person in such another person's presence, naturally tend to provoke violent resentment.” We understand that getting pulled over for a DUI can be a stressful experience; however, it is important to stay calm and refuse as politely as you can.
Is It Better to Accept or Refuse to Do Field Sobriety Tests?
In general, it's better to refuse field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests are notoriously unreliable. It's possible to fail them even if you aren't under the influence. Some common reasons for failing field sobriety tests while sober include:
- Anxiety from being pulled over
- Confusion about the instructions
- Medical conditions
There is also an element of bias here because your performance on field sobriety tests is subjective. It's not like a breathalyzer, blood, or urine test where the results are clear and numerical. An officer can claim you failed all the tests even if you passed them perfectly — this happened to JM, a past client of ours.
Can Field Sobriety Tests Be Invalidated if I Didn't Agree to Them?
If you did do field sobriety tests, you could move to exclude your lawyer and suppress the results of those tests. You can do this in the following situations:
- The government can't prove that you agreed to do the field sobriety test
- The officer didn't tell you that those tests were voluntary
- The officer didn't give you the right to refuse
- The officer made it seem like you had to do the field sobriety tests
If any of these are true, you have a good argument for excluding or suppressing your results on those field sobriety tests as compelled self-incrimination.
Have Further Questions on Field Sobriety Tests? Contact Brett Willis Law Today
Whether you accepted or refused field sobriety tests, it's essential to contact an experienced DUI lawyer to handle your case. DUI convictions can come with devastating consequences, including a permanent criminal record. If you have questions on field sobriety tests or need a consultation, contact us today.