When a law enforcement officer pulls over a driver for operating under the influence (OUI), a field sobriety test may take place. These roadside assessments occur when the officer reasonably suspects the driver is under the influence. Learn about the basics of field sobriety tests in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts so that you can become better informed about your legal rights.
What Is a Field Sobriety Test?
Law enforcement officers use these roadside assessments to measure certain physical and mental abilities of the driver, such as:
- Balance and motor skills
- Attention levels
- Physical capabilities
The three most common field sobriety tests include:
- The horizontal-gaze-nystagmus (HGN) test
- The walk-and-turn test
- The one-leg-stand test
The officer can establish probable cause for an OUI case with these physical tests. Drivers do have the option to refuse these assessments. However, refusing a blood or breathalyzer test can lead to serious consequences for the driver, including a license suspension according to implied consent laws.
Are Field Sobriety Tests Accurate?
While many departments rely on these tests, they are known to have low accuracy. Many cases have been overturned by arguing the tests’ reliability. Sometimes, the driver’s physical condition or the weather can affect the result of these tests. Being under the influence is not the only factor that can lead to a positive result. Inner ear issues, injuries, obesity, and wearing certain shoes can cause the officer to believe a driver is under the influence.
Can You Refuse a Sobriety Test?
Drivers are not legally obligated to submit to these tests, and a refusal cannot be used as evidence in an OUI trial. Massachusetts drivers have the right to refuse a field sobriety test. Keep in mind that refusing to participate in a roadside assessment will not prevent an arrest. A law enforcement officer can still make an arrest for OUI if they have enough evidence against the defendant, such as body camera footage of the driver’s behavior at the time of the incident.
Is It Possible to Challenge a Field Sobriety Test in Court?
There are several ways that an experienced OUI defense attorney in Massachusetts can challenge the validity of these tests. Everything from medical reasons to road conditions can affect the final results of a roadside assessment. They can cast doubt on whether the driver was genuinely operating a vehicle under the influence. These cases can be challenging to defend. For that reason, drivers need to hire an attorney who understands the complexities of these field sobriety tests.
Seek Legal Advice from a Massachusetts OUI Defense Attorney
The Law Offices of Joseph D. Bernard P.C. is a nationally recognized expert in OUI defense. With over 50 years of experience and a dedicated OUI defense practice, we provide world-class advocacy for clients facing the stress and potential penalties of these cases. We proudly serve clients throughout Massachusetts with Springfield, Hyannis, and Belchertown offices. Our legal team has a proven record of successes, including dropped charges and acquittals. Contact us today to schedule your free and confidential consultation. Call our office at (413)-731-9995 or (413)-225-2072 (text).