Can an officer make me take field sobriety tests?

Griffin Law, PLLC
Dec 15, 2017

When pulled over on the suspicion of drunk driving, most Statesville, North Carolina, motorists will likely volunteer to take certain field sobriety tests, which are exercises and other physical assessments that, at least according to police and prosecutors, prove whether or not a person has had too much alcohol to be able to drive safely.

The key word, though, is “volunteer,” as North Carolina residents simply are not required to take field sobriety tests and, in fact, may well have a right under North Carolina’s criminal law to refuse such tests since they are part of a criminal investigation.

Why people take them is hard to explain; it may be that they want to cooperate with the police or think they are less likely to get in to trouble if they take them. However, someone should evaluate carefully whether or not they should agree to perform these tests, as a bad showing on them will only strengthen the state’s case for a DWI conviction.

As a word of caution, just because a person does not take field sobriety tests does not mean that an officer cannot proceed with a drunk driving arrest and charge. Usually, an officer who asks for sobriety tests already has seen enough to reasonably believe a person is drunk and doesn’t really need the tests to make an arrest.

Also, North Carolina residents should remember that they do have a legal obligation to take a certified breath or blood test if they are asked to do so, at least if they want to be able to continue to drive.

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