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What happens when drivers refuse field sobriety tests?

On Behalf of | Apr 20, 2021 | Blog

Massachusetts calls drunk driving OUI, which is an abbreviation for operating under the influence. Regardless of what the state calls the offense, it is illegal in all states to operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. When a driver gets stopped in Massachusetts, the officer commonly asks him or her to take field sobriety tests. Some drivers may wonder if they legally have to engage in these measures of their sobriety.

Implied consent and chemical testing

Implied consent laws state that a driver who chooses to drive in Massachusetts has given consent to chemical testing. A chemical test may include a blood, urine, or breathalyzer test to measure BAC, or blood alcohol content.

Drivers who measure .08 or higher for alcohol or who show impairment after taking drugs can get arrested for OUI. Such a driver may get his or her license suspended immediately for one year, or that sentence may be reduced to less than a year if the driver takes alcohol education courses.

Refusal to take field sobriety tests

A field sobriety test lets the officer check the driver for suspected impairment. One test includes the nystagmus gaze, which checks for eye jerking by having the driver follow a moving object.

A walk-and-turn test requires the driver to walk a straight line two ways to check balance. A one-leg stand test checks balance by having the driver stand on one leg for several seconds. A driver is not legally required to take field sobriety tests, and refusing has no bearing on the court case.

However, most officers don’t let the driver know that he or she can legally refuse. The effectiveness of the standard field tests has been debated because certain medical conditions, age, and weight may make the test more difficult for sober drivers.

A drunk driving charge can impact a driver’s future, and field sobriety tests aren’t always accurate. An attorney may be able to prove the validity of the tests.