In our last blog post, we examined some of the different tests that police officers use to try and measure intoxication after pulling a driver over. As we mentioned in that blog post, which can be read here, you will likely be asked to take a number of different tests if an officer has reason to believe you may be drunk.
These preliminary tests are designed to measure a person’s ability to do things like balance and follow instructions, as these can be impaired by alcohol. However, it is important to note that it is possible for a legally sober person to fail these tests.
For example, if a person balances poorly during a walk-and-turn or one-leg stand test, that alone is not enough to indicate intoxication. Balancing can be very difficult for people with physical restrictions or joint pain; a person may be wearing uncomfortable shoes or taking the tests on unstable surfaces. All of these things could make it very difficult to balance well enough to pass these tests.
Police officers also look for signs of confusion or an inability to pay attention or follow directions when administering these tests. However, being pulled over by police and being asked to perform roadside testing can be an enormously stressful and scary experience regardless of intoxication, and this can seriously affect a person’s mindset.
Medication can also make it all but impossible for a person to perform field sobriety tests well enough to pass. Side effects of many prescription drugs include nausea, fatigue and other conditions that can compromise a person’s mental or physical abilities.
With all this in mind, it makes sense that some drivers choose to refuse these and other preliminary sobriety tests so that they do not voluntarily give officers any potentially incriminating information. However, according to North Carolina drunk driving laws, there will be consequences of refusing a breath test or field sobriety testing and they can be serious.
Whether a driver has performed field sobriety tests or not before being arrested and charged with DWI, it can be crucial to understand how that decision will affect a person’s case. Working with an attorney can be an important part of building a defense and trying to avoid or minimize the impact of a conviction.