DUI Field Sobriety Tests And How To Refuse Them In Arizona?

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In Arizona, facing a DUI stop can be nerve-wracking. One of the key decisions you might face is whether to agree to a field sobriety test. These tests, often administered roadside by law enforcement officers, and are designed to assess your ability to operate a vehicle safely.  However, many drivers would ask themselves: can you refuse a field sobriety test without consequences? We’ll explore the Arizona law on refusing these tests, the potential consequences, and the best actions if you find yourself in this situation.

What Is a Field Sobriety Test?

Standard Field Sobriety Tests in Arizona are part of preliminary roadside assessments conducted by police officers to determine if a driver is impaired or not. According to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), there are three approved roadside tests, which are referred to as Standard Field Sobriety Tests or SFTs and include:

  • The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)  This test examines involuntary jerking of the eyes as the suspect looks forward, and follows a stimilus to the left and right, while keeping your head still.  It is based on the premise that alcohol impairs the ability of the eyes to smoothly track a moving object.  Officers observe the eyes for signs of nystagmus (involuntary jerking) when the driver’s gaze is moved horizontally or vertically.
  • The Walk-and-Turn test – In this test, the driver is instructed to take nine steps along a straight line, heel-to-toe, then perform a three-point turn, and return in the same manner. The officer assesses the driver’s ability to follow instructions, maintain balance, and perform the task accurately.
  • The One-Leg Stand – In this Field Sobriety Test in Arizona, the driver is asked to stand on one leg while raising the other foot approximately six inches off the ground. The officer times the driver for 30 seconds while observing their ability to maintain balance. This test evaluates divided attention and physical coordination, both of which can be impaired by alcohol.

In addition to the standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs), several other tests are used to assess impairment, or can be called by different names:

  • Heel-to-Toe Test – Also known as the Walk-and-Turn test, this assesses balance and coordination. The driver walks heel-to-toe in a straight line, turns, and walks back in the same manner.
  • Finger-to-Nose Test – This evaluates fine motor skills and coordination. The driver is instructed to touch their nose with the tip of their finger, showing precision and coordination.
  • Alphabet Recitation – Drivers may be asked to recite the alphabet forward or backward to assess cognitive function and divided attention.
  • Finger Counting Test – This test requires touching the thumb to each fingertip in a sequential manner, testing fine motor skills and coordination.
  • Hand Pat – In this test, the driver pats their hand on their thigh or the steering wheel to assess reaction time and coordination.
  • Modified Position of Attention (Rhomberg Test) – This test involves standing with feet together, head tilted back, and eyes closed, all while counting, to check for swaying or loss of balance, indicating impairment.

In the state of Arizona, most officers will use a set battery of six common tests. However, before an officer can carry out these tests, they must have the consent of the driver to administer them.

What Happens in Roadside Field Sobriety Tests?

Usually, if a driver is stopped on suspicion of impairment, the police officer will give them instructions for the test. They will administer the test, judge your performance based on how well you do them, and then finally report on your performance. In case a driver fails the standard field sobriety tests in Arizona, that may be used as evidence against them in court.

Reliability of Standard Field Sobriety Tests

The accuracy of SFSTs has always been an issue. Since these tests are not always reliable, they should be admitted only as preliminary evidence against a suspect. They should not be solely used to convict someone of DUI. For SFSTs to be accurate, they must be instructed, administered, and reported strictly in accordance with NHSTA guidelines. However, in reality, FSTs are rarely administered in accordance with the NHSTA rules and guidelines.

Guidelines for Administering FSTs

According to NHSTA guidelines, field sobriety tests need to be conducted in the presence of appropriate testing conditions and equipment. Consider these factors:

  • Proper location and lighting
  • Traffic and noise at the location
  • Weather and climate conditions
  • Age and weight of the suspect
  • Any medical conditions and physical impairments the driver may have
  • Police officers should provide the instructions clearly
  • If there was a language barrier between the suspect and the officer
  • How the officer evaluated and reported the test

Moreover, any non-standard field sobriety tests should not be allowed as valid evidence in court against the defendant, and may be suppressed.

Are Field Sobriety Tests Mandatory in Arizona?

Under Arizona law, field sobriety tests are not mandatory, unlike the chemical test, where refusal may lead to serious consequences. Although refusing Field Sobriety Tests in Arizona can have certain consequences, most DUI Attorneys advise that drivers should politely decline these tests. It’s advisable to seek legal help immediately if you face DUI charges to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the legal process.

Can I Refuse a Field Sobriety Test in Arizona?

Do you have to take a field sobriety test when pulled over in Arizona? The short answer is not necessarily. It is recommended to refuse standard field sobriety tests due to their history of inaccuracies and the difficulty many people have in passing them, regardless of actual impairment.

What Happens if You Refuse a Sobriety Test?

Technically, refusing a field sobriety test can allow the prosecution to use your refusal as an indication or inclination that there is a presumption that you were impaired, which is why you did not perform the test.

Nonetheless, it is much better to try to argue a rebuttal of this presumption, rather than try to explain that the cues of impairment observed by the officer during the testing is explainable.

Ultimately, it is much better to have refused all Field Sobriety Tests than to consent to any of them.

The Field Sobriety Tests will ALWAYS be used as evidence of impairment, and will NEVER be used as evidence of sobriety.  It is incredibly rare for even sober people to have zero or only one cue of impairment when performing the Field Sobriety Tests.

The average person cannot perform these tests without extensive training.  Nonetheless, law enforcement and prosecutors will use any issues while performing the FSTS as evidence of impairment.

Attorney’s Role Regarding DUI Field Sobriety Tests

When facing DUI field sobriety tests in Arizona, an Attorney plays a crucial role in advising drivers of their rights. They can provide clear guidance on how to politely decline these tests, emphasizing that they are not mandatory under state law. 

An Attorney with solid, successful case accomplishments can ensure that your refusal to participate in Field Sobriety Tests is handled correctly to minimize potential legal consequences. They also advocate on your behalf to protect your rights and provide representation if your case goes to court, aiming to achieve the best possible outcome for your situation.

Frequently Asked Questions About Field Sobriety Test

Can Field Sobriety Tests Be Used in Court?

Field sobriety tests (FSTs) can be used as evidence in court to support the suspicion of impairment. However, their reliability and accuracy can be challenged, especially if they were not administered correctly or if the individual has underlying medical conditions that affect their performance.

What Should I Know About DUI Test Questions?

When confronted with DUI test questions, remember your right to remain silent and avoid self-incrimination. It’s crucial to have an Attorney with a proven track record to navigate the legal complexities and protect your rights effectively.

How to Pass a Field Sobriety Test?

Passing a field sobriety test involves following instructions precisely, maintaining balance and coordination, and demonstrating clear cognitive function. However, factors like nervousness, fatigue, or medical conditions can affect performance. Consulting with an Attorney for DUI can provide strategies for handling these tests, but the best advice is to simply decline to do them..

Are field sobriety tests mandatory for all drivers in Arizona?

No, under Arizona law, field sobriety tests are not mandatory for all drivers. Unlike chemical tests, which carry legal consequences for refusal, drivers generally have the right to refuse field sobriety tests without penalties to their driver’s license. However, it’s crucial to note that refusing these tests may still result in arrest if the officer has other grounds for suspicion of impairment. 

What Happens if You Refuse a Sobriety Test and Invoke Your Rights?

When you refuse a field sobriety test in Arizona, you are exercising your right to protect yourself from participating in tests that may not accurately assess your level of impairment. These tests can be subjective and influenced by various factors which could unfairly indicate impairment. 

Despite your right to refuse, law enforcement may still use other observations, such as your driving behavior, speech, or the odor of alcohol, to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest. Consulting with a skilled DUI Attorney is crucial in this situation, as they can provide legal guidance tailored to your specific circumstances.

Can You Refuse a Field Sobriety Test: Your Rights in Arizona

Dealing with a DUI stop in Arizona involves critical decisions regarding field sobriety tests. While these tests are not mandatory under state law, refusing them can lead to consequences. Despite the potential penalties, it is advisable to politely decline these tests due to their documented inaccuracies and the subjective nature of their assessment. Understanding your rights and the implications of refusal versus compliance is essential.

In case you are not sure how field sobriety tests can be used against you in Arizona court, contact us or call the law office of Attorney Brian Sloan at 480-900-0384 or 602-900-0384 now.

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