Should I refuse a field sobriety test?

Seeing lights in your rearview mirror is never a sight you want to see. When you are on your way home from a night out, it can be especially terrifying.

Whether you have been drinking or not, there is a chance that the officer has a reason to believe you could be intoxicated. While field sobriety tests are often not a fair assessment, you may not know what to do when an officer asks you to step out of your vehicle.

Here’s what you should know about taking a field sobriety test and what could happen if you refuse.

What are they looking for?

Field sobriety tests are a subjective way for an officer to estimate whether you have had too much to drink before getting behind the wheel. The challenge is that people can fail them while being completely sober. If an officer believes you are under the influence, he or she will usually find something on the field sobriety tests to justify an arrest.  It is likely the rare situation wherein an officer asks someone to perform field sobriety tests and then lets the person go home.  Theoretically, these tests gage tasks that are more challenging to do after drinking, such as:

  • Balancing (typically on one foot)
  • Walking and performing a task (such as counting a certain number of steps, walking heel-to-toe or both)
  • Horizontal gaze (typically, when an officer performs this test, it is not admissible in court)

In some cases, an officer may have already assessed your sobriety and see mistakes that anyone could make, rather than giving the benefit of the doubt.

Should I take the test?

In some states, there are severe consequences if you do not take a field sobriety test, like having your license revoked. Fortunately, in Tennessee, that is not the case.

Here, unlike blood and breath tests, there is no law requiring you to participate in a field sobriety test. However, you should keep in mind, there could still be consequences for refusing, including facing an arrest.

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