You’re pulled over while driving home one night. The officer says that he believes you are impaired since you swerved over the yellow line. He asks you to get out of the car and do some field sobriety tests.
You know that you only swerved because you were trying to turn on the windshield wipers. It’s dark and raining. You don’t want to get out and do field sobriety tests, fearing that you may slip on the wet, muddy shoulder of the road and fail the test. That would lead to an arrest. Can you tell the officer your concern and then refuse to do these tests, or are you obligated to do them when asked?
You typically can refuse the tests
The officer may try to press you to comply or ask you repeatedly to just get out and do the tests, but you are generally allowed to refuse if you don’t want to do them. You haven’t been arrested. The field tests help the police investigate, but you’re not obligated to help them in any way. You can just say that you would prefer not to take the test.
The one thing to keep in mind is that you may still get arrested. The officer may claim that your swerving, along with your refusal to take the tests, is probable cause for a drunk driving arrest. Do not assume that refusing the tests means they have to let you go.
However, if you wind up in court, refusing those tests does mean that the police have one less piece of evidence to use against you than if you would have failed the tests. You must carefully consider all of your legal options for an effective defense.