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Do drivers have to take field sobriety tests?

| Mar 29, 2021 | Drunk Driving |

All states have their own laws to combat impaired driving, such as hefty fines, license suspension, and jail time. When law enforcement pulls a driver over in Missouri for suspected DUI, the officer may conduct field sobriety tests. There are three standardized tests officers use to determine impairment, but people may wonder if they can refuse to take them.

Standard field sobriety tests

Through research, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found three effective tests for checking impairment: walk-and-turn, horizontal gaze, and one-leg stand. These tests check the driver’s eyesight, coordination, and ability to follow directions.

During the walk-and-turn test, the driver walks a straight line, turns on one leg, and walks back the other way. For the one-leg stand test, the officer tells the driver to balance on one leg for 30 seconds or not put their foot down until the officer tells them. The officer uses the horizontal nystagmus test to check for uncontrolled jerking movements, which may worsen with alcohol consumption.

Implied consent and refusing field sobriety tests

In Missouri, drivers seldom face legal consequences for refusing the field sobriety tests. However, many people don’t know they can refuse, because the officer never tells them. Despite the research, the effectiveness of the tests remains debatable, since many sober drivers could have trouble passing them.

However, refusing to take a chemical test such as a Breathalyzer, urine test, or blood test, could result in immediate license suspension. Almost all states have implied consent laws, which means when drivers operate a vehicle on public highways, they give default consent to chemical tests. Even if the driver tests under .08 BAC, which is the legal limit in most states, they can still get charged with DUI.

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