If you are pulled over and the officer suspects that you may be under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, they may request that you submit to a field sobriety test. It is important that you know your rights in this situation, as well as any possible consequences depending on the decision that you ultimately make. Refusing a field sobriety test will not exonerate you from being charged with OUI (Operating Under the Influence) if you are, in fact, intoxicated while operating the motor vehicle, but the results of a field sobriety test may also not be 100% conclusive during a trial.
If you have been arrested under the suspicion of OUI in Massachusetts and either refused or failed a field sobriety test, contact us today to discuss your rights and your options for a fair trial and the best possible outcomes. We offer a free initial consultation where you will be able to speak with an experienced OUI lawyer about the details of your traffic stop, your arrest, and the charges that you are facing, and get an idea of how we would handle your case as your legal representatives.
Read more below about field sobriety tests, your rights when submitting to or refusing to take one, and how they factor into your trial after an arrest.
What Is a Field Sobriety Test?
A field sobriety test is not one test but is actually a series of different tests administered by a police officer as a way to determine whether or not someone is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. In the United States, police officers must have probable cause in order to arrest someone, and failing a field sobriety test is sufficient for this probable cause. In addition to indicating a probable cause for arrest, they are used as corroborating evidence during a trial, when the defendant will try to work towards getting their charges either reduced or dropped based on insubstantial evidence, improper procedures, or other methods.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a series of standardized field sobriety tests that are used in most situations to establish a probable cause for OUI arrest. There is no “pass/fail” scale for the tests; instead, the officer has a series of indicators to watch for while administering the exams to gather clues or evidence of the suspect’s level of impairment. This means that field sobriety tests are highly subjective, and the determination made is entirely up to the officer’s discretion and perception. We will work to ensure during your trial that this subjectivity is taken seriously and that the judge or jury do not factor these observations into the case as absolute evidence.
Contesting a Field Sobriety Test in Massachusetts
If you submit to a field sobriety test and the officer determines that you have “failed” these tests, there are a variety of ways that we will contest this finding during your case. Here are just a few:
Field Test Subjectivity
As mentioned above, a field sobriety test is entirely subjective, and up to the officer to determine whether or not you “pass” or “fail.” Unlike a blood test, there is no hard, tangible evidence, and does not account for other factors such as nerves, roadside conditions, and other things that could impact your performance.
The NHTSA’s approved field sobriety tests do not account for physical conditions that may impact your performance in any situation, such as your height, weight, any disabilities, or other factors that may impact your ability to perform while completely sober.
Refusing a Field Sobriety Test in Massachusetts
You are under no legal obligation in Massachusetts to submit to a field sobriety test, and your refusal may not be used as evidence against you during your trial. If you are being asked to submit to a field sobriety test, it is likely that you are already going to be arrested under the suspicion of operating your vehicle under the influence, and you will only be giving the officer additional evidence to be used in your trial.
Contact Us Today
If you have been arrested for OUI in Massachusetts, speak with an OUI attorney as soon as possible. We will be able to help you understand your rights, and you will be able to discuss how a field sobriety test played a role in your arrest, our history of representing cases like your own, and how your field sobriety test will factor into the defense we build for you.