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Can You Refuse a Field Sobriety Test in Washington State?

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When a police officer suspects that a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he or she may pull the motorist over and conduct a field sobriety test. If the officer has reason to believe the driver is intoxicated, he or she may place the motorist under arrest.

If you are pulled over on suspicion of inebriated driving, you may wonder if you are required to comply with the officer’s orders. While field sobriety tests are voluntary and you have the right to refuse one, this refusal could be used against you in a criminal case. 

What Is a Field Sobriety Test?

A field sobriety test is a method that police officers use to determine whether a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. When an officer suspects that a driver is drunk or high, he or she will stop the motorist and may request that he or she exit the vehicle for the test.

Field sobriety tests usually happen on the side of the road. There are usually three components of the test.

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: The officer will wave a pen or another object in front of the motorist’s face. The motorist will need to follow the object’s movements with his or her eyes without turning his or her head.
  • The Walk and Turn: The officer will ask the motorist to walk in a straight line. The officer will request the driver to connect his or her toe to his or her heel with each step. The motorist will then need to turn around and complete the test again.
  • The One-Leg Stand: The officer will ask the motorist to stand on one leg and count out loud. 

What to Do If You Are Asked to Conduct a Field Sobriety Test

In Washington state, you have the right to refuse to submit to a field sobriety test if you are stopped on suspicion of DUI. However, failure to do so could be used against you in court if you are later charged with intoxicated driving. The prosecutor may claim that you refused the test because you knew that you would have failed and thus committed this crime.

Regardless of this fact, it may be in your best interest to refuse a field sobriety test. If you are asked to submit to this test, politely decline and offer the officer an explanation, such as the following.

  • I am injured and my injuries will prevent me from performing the test correctly. 
  • I have been advised by my attorney to decline field sobriety tests.
  • Field sobriety tests are not subjective, and I am choosing to decline the test.

Could You Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?

While you have the right to refuse a field sobriety test, different rules apply when it comes to breathalyzer or blood tests. You could face additional penalties if an officer asks you to submit to one of these tests and you refuse to comply.

Washington is an implied consent state. This means that if you hold a driver’s license, you implicitly agree to undergo a blood or breathalyzer test when an officer pulls you over on suspicion of DUI. If you fail to comply, you could face a one-year license revocation and enhanced penalties if you are convicted. 

If you are facing charges for a DUI, you need an attorney on your side. Contact a Washington defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your next steps.


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