If a police officer has reason to believe that you are driving while intoxicated, he or she will ask that you submit to field sobriety tests. You are not required to do any of these tests. These tests are to determine whether or not the officer’s suspicions of impaired driving are correct. If they are, then you will find that you are arrested for a DWI offense and taken to jail. If you refuse field sobriety tests, you may still be arrested and will later have to submit to breath, blood or urine tests to determine if you are intoxicated.
If you are charged with DWI or you refuse to take field sobriety tests, you need to speak with a qualified field sobriety test attorney to help you in your case and to also help you in making decisions that are best for you.
Types of Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)
There are several types of field sobriety tests that an officer will perform to see if you are, in fact, intoxicated. It is important to remember that under Minnesota law, you are NOT required to do any of these tests. The common FSTs include:
The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (Eye Test)
Nystagmus means involuntary jerking of the eyeball. The officer will claim to be able to observe the angle at which your eye begins to jerk. If this “nystagmus” occurs before 45 degrees, the blood alcohol concentration is above .05. The driver is supposed to keep the head still, staring straight ahead. The officer may use a finger or a pencil for the subject to follow with his or her eyes without moving his or her head. The finger or pencil must be 12 to 15 inches away from the subject. The officer conducting the test must keep the stimulus (finger or pen) off to the side of the subject’s eye at 90 degrees for at least four seconds, but may times the officer does not. Finding mistakes like these can get your FST, your arrest and your DWI charges thrown out.
Walk and Turn Test
The driver must make movements while also following instructions given by the officer. This is a “divided attention” task. Intoxicated individuals have a hard time listening to instructions and performing the tasks at the same time. The test is supposed to be performed on a hard, dry surface so that the subject can complete heel-to-toe steps. If an individual exhibits two or more behaviors or “clues” during this test that are indicative of alcohol consumption, the police will claim that the test was failed and that the driver’s alcohol concentration is above .08.
One Leg Stand Test
There are two stages to this test. The first is the instructions given by the officer, which the officer will usually demonstrate. For instance, the officer will demonstrate that the starting position is standing with heels together and arms down to the sides. The subject will also be told to not start the test until told to do so. In the second stage, the officer instructs the subject to stand on one leg while holding the other foot out front around six inches off the ground. The subject is allowed to stand on the leg of his or her choice. The subject must do this for 30 seconds. If he or she struggles, then the police will testify that it is reasonable to believe that the driver’s alcohol content is over .08.
Preliminary Breath Test or Preliminary Screening Test
The police may ask a driver to blow into the preliminary breath test (PBT), a small handheld box held by the officer. It is important to know that you are NOT required to blow into the preliminary breath test. If you refuse, the officer cannot arrest you merely for refusing to take the PBT, but may threaten to. The officer will arrest you if he or she thinks that there is probable cause to believe that you are under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, with or without a PBT result. If you are sure that you are over the limit, you should refuse the preliminary breath test.
You should, however, take the PBT if you think you may blow below a .08. An officer may still arrest you for DWI even if you blow below .08 on the preliminary breath test, depending on many other factors, including your driving conduct.
Other tests such as breath, blood and urine tests at the police station, jail or hospital may also be administered. A PBT may be conducted on site, but may also be conducted after arrest. A blood or urine test will be conducted after the subject has been arrested to determine the exact alcohol level.
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Only a professional and highly skilled DWI defense lawyer can make sure your case is properly addressed and handled efficiently. Our DWI attorney will thoroughly investigate the circumstances of your arrest and the arresting officer, interview any important eyewitnesses, handle all court appearances and documents, and guide you through the criminal justice system to your freedom and peace of mind. If you have questions regarding your DWI charges, potential penalties and risks or strategies for defending your rights, call our law office at (952) 913-1421 or use our online contact form. You have rights – we protect them.
Our Minneapolis DWI defense lawyer represents clients charged in criminal matters throughout the Twin Cities metro area and throughout the entire state of Minnesota, including Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Scott County, Dakota County, Washington County and Sherburne County. We also represent clients throughout Anoka, Andover, Apple Valley, Blaine, Bloomington, Burnsville, Champlin, Chaska, Coon Rapids, Eagan, Edina, Eden Prairie, Lino Lakes, Lakeville, Maple Grove, Maplewood, Minnetonka, Minneapolis, Plymouth, Richfield, Robbinsdale, Roseville, Woodbury and White Bear Lake.