Should You Take Sobriety Tests if You're Pulled for DUI?

There are a lot of pieces to the DUI puzzle. From specific laws for underage DUIs and repeat offenders to different types of defenses strategies, it can be hard to know exactly what is involved in a particular DUI arrest. But there's one thing in common all DUI stops share: field sobriety tests and the need for an experienced DUI lawyer.  


Don't Stumble Your Way Into a DUI Arrest


There are three standard field sobriety tests (SFST) created by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In North Carolina, you are allowed to decline SFSTs without having your license suspended as a result. There are a number of reasons you may want to decline, but you may want to contact a proven DUI lawyer before you do. If you decline, you will likely end up taking a chemical analysis or risk losing your license for a year — and you could face even more charges. If you accept, here's what you need to know. 


The first sobriety test is called the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test. With this one, an officer will watch your eyes as you follow a moving object, such as a pen or finger. The officer will watch for involuntary jerking of your eyes or nystagmus, as your eyes move side to side.


The second test is the walk-and-turn. You'll be asked to take to the runway and walk a straight line for a predetermined number of steps, then turning around in a specific manner, and walking back. An officer will monitor how well you stay on course, if you miss a heel to toe request, or any number of other issues with maintaining balance. 


The third SFST is the one-leg stand. You’ll be required to stand on one foot and count to a certain number while the officer monitors your balance. The big three to avoid here are hopping, swaying, and putting your foot down before you should. 


To Blow or Not to Blow: DUIs and Breathalyzers


Taking a breathalyzer test on the side of the road is something you are not legally required to do. Law enforcement may pressure you into taking this test so they can measure your BAC as soon as possible for a stronger case against you. If you decline the test, they must decide to arrest or not arrest you based on other evidence. This evidence could be admissions, witness statements, field sobriety tests, etc. 


The positive of taking a breathalyzer is you may be under the limit and you aren't arrested. The negative, of course, is you blow and show a high enough BAC for an arrest. The best course of action would be to contact a DUI attorney who can help you navigate the situation. Keep in mind, in North Carolina you have 30 minutes to contact a lawyer before you accept or decline the invitation to blow. 


Chemical Analysis: An Offer You Can't Refuse


It's common for law enforcement to administer a chemical analysis of your BAC after arrest, usually at the station. If you've already declined the breathalyzer, you may be thinking you'll do the same with a chemical test. BUT. When you got your North Carolina driver's license, you gave consent that if you refuse a chemical analysis your license can be suspended for a year. This is where it can get tricky if you can't mount a strong defense.


If you refuse to take a chemical analysis when you're arrested for DUI, the DMV will suspend your license for a year and you could face additional charges. All of a sudden, you have two cases on your hands — the DUI charge and the criminal refusal charge. You have to make your own decisions in these cases, but if you decide to "test" the system, you better have one of the best DUI lawyers by your side. 


Whether you choose to refuse or submit to sobriety testing, you don't have to fight your DUI alone. With the help of a proven DUI lawyer from the Law Offices of Jason H. Reece, you can minimize the risks of being convicted. Contact us today, and we'll get to work on the best defense.