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What you need to know about DUI field sobriety tests

If you are pulled over by law enforcement due to some type of traffic infraction, the officer may be observing you closely to see if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If the officer believes there are signs that you may in fact be under the influence, you may be asked to participate in a field sobriety test.

A field sobriety test can be the first of several tests an officer will ask you to perform to make a judgement on your ability to operate the motor vehicle. A field sobriety test is by no means an accurate tool for determining the sobriety of a person. The test is only used to give the officer a guide for making a DUI arrest.

What is a field sobriety test?

Typically, a field sobriety test that an officer may perform would consist of up to three different activities. These three tests are:

  • The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) – Research has found that at certain times when a person is intoxicated, there is involuntary movement of their eyes to go to the side. An officer may look into your eyes to see if this action is happening to you.
  • Walk and turn test – This test will consist of an officer providing specific instructions for walking and turning around. The officer may ask that you take five steps straight forward and turn around to the left. The officer will look to see if you followed these directions and if you kept your balance the whole time.
  • Standing on one leg test - While standing on one leg an officer may ask that you also count out loud. With both physical and mental aspects being displayed, an officer will look for swaying, arm movement to help gain balance or if your raised foot comes down. These can all be indicators of intoxication. 

You can refuse a field sobriety test

Since a field sobriety test is just a basic tool for an officer to gauge the validity of making an arrest, you are not required to take the test. There is no law in Illinois that requires you to take the test or will penalize you for not taking it. It is worth noting that just because you may refuse a field test does not mean you will not be arrested. However, one thing to note, if you refuse the field sobriety test, a prosecutor can use your refusal to impact the consequences you face if you are found guilty of DUI.

A test you should not refuse

By being a driver of a motor vehicle on Illinois roads, you have deemed to give your consent to a chemical test to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC). The chemical test will be either a blood, breath or urine test. You are allowed to refuse taking the test but refusing this test can have extreme consequences. Because of your implied consent as a driver, a chemical test refusal can get your license suspended for up to 1-year if you are found guilty.

If you have been pulled over for DUI suspicion, there are many complex issues you need to sort out. You should seek the advice of a knowledgeable DUI attorney who can assist you in your defense.

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