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Can I Refuse to Take a Field Sobriety Test?


If you are pulled over for a DUI in Illinois, you are not legally required to do a field sobriety test. Most people don’t realize this and believe they must do everything a police officer requests at a DUI stop. Although it’s true that you are being detained and can’t simply drive off, you can legally refuse to do certain things.

In addition to declining a field sobriety test, you can also refuse to answer a police officer’s questions that don’t concern the biographical information found on your driver’s license. While you must respond when the police ask for your name and address, you don’t have to tell an officer anything about what you were doing before you were pulled over or if you had drunk any alcohol.

You may be required, however, to submit to a test of your breath or blood after you are arrested. This is not the same as a field sobriety test, and you can face a license suspension if you decline.

What Is a Field Sobriety Test?

A field sobriety test is a task, or a series of tasks, a police officer asks a DUI suspect to perform. These tasks involve balance and coordination, and “failing” them is often construed as a sign that a driver is impaired by drugs or alcohol.

Some of the most common field sobriety tests include the following:

  • Horizontal Gave Nystagmus: This test requires a driver to follow a moving object – often a pen or flashlight – with their eyes. It’s believed that when someone is intoxicated, their eyes exhibit jerky and less fluid movement. Police officers look for jerky eye movement as a sign of intoxication.
  • Walk-and-Turn Test: This test requires a driver to take nine heel-to-toe paces in a straight line, turn on one foot, and return the exact same way. Officers look for issues with following instructions, losing balance, stopping to regain balance, using arms for balance, and a variety of other factors to indicate intoxication.
  • One-Leg Standing Test: This test requires a driver to stand on one left with the other one six inches off the ground and count backward from 1,001 until the police officer is satisfied. Police look for issues with maintaining balance and keep track of one’s count as signs of intoxication.

Although these are some of the most common field sobriety tests, individual departments and even police officers may have their own that they use.

What Is the Problem with Field Sobriety Tests?

The problem with field sobriety tests is that they are ripe for generating false positives, which cause unnecessary DUI arrests that can have life-changing consequences. This is because the tests assume everyone should have the same level of physical ability in any setting, and the “results” are often only what they are interpreted to be by the police officer conducting the field sobriety test.

These tests only serve to provide police officers with what they need to arrest someone for DUI. In many cases, police officers will request field sobriety tests when they suspect someone of DUI but don’t think they have enough evidence to bring them in. Because it’s so easy to “fail” a field sobriety test, it’s never in your interest to submit to one. Whether you pass or fail is often up to the police officer themselves.

When Do I Have to Take a Breath or Blood Test?

Illinois’s implied consent law requires someone to give a blood, breath, and/or urine test to determine the presence of alcohol and drugs in their system after their lawful arrest.

If a police officer hasn’t placed you under arrest, meaning that you are still only being detained, you do not have to take any such test. You can still refuse a chemical test even after an arrest, but is likely to incur a mandatory six-month driver’s license suspension – even if you are never charged or convicted for DUI.

Contact Us If You’re Arrested for DUI

If you are arrested for DUI, what happens next is crucial. Our experienced attorney at the Law Office of Steven Fine can provide the legal support you need to reach a better outcome for the criminal charges you may face.

Learn more about how we can help during a free initial consultation. Contact us online to get started.