What to Know About Field Sobriety & Alcohol Tests

What You Need to Know About Field Sobriety and Alcohol Tests in Tennessee

There’s nothing worse than hearing the sound of a police siren behind you when you’re driving, unless it’s after you’ve had a couple of drinks. You may not be drunk, but it could be close. For the best chance at fighting charges upon being pulled over, you need to know your rights. The officer might request that you take a field sobriety test or chemical test. Here’s what you should know in advance.

The Field Sobriety Test

The field sobriety test is one way the officer collects evidence as to whether you’ve had too much to drink or not. The standard tests approved by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration are:

  • Walk and Turn
  • One-leg Stand
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

Under Tennessee law, you can and normally should refuse to take the FST. Why would you want to do that? Field sobriety tests are inherently unreliable. If you have back problems, knee problems, or uncomfortable footwear, you could fail the test even if you are sober. The environment for the tests, such as poor lighting, ground slope, broken pavement, passing traffic, etc., often create unfair testing conditions. Sometimes, the officer might give bad instructions. Old age can even affect the results, as can poor weather. If you take the FST and fail, you are giving the officer (and later, the judge or jury) misleading evidence that you might be under the influence.

There are no legal penalties for refusing to perform Field Sobriety Tests requested by a police officer.

Alcohol Tests

By contrast, there can be legal consequences for exercising your freedom to refuse one type of alcohol test requested by an arresting officer who follows the correct legal procedure. When an officer properly asks a person to submit to a breath test to test for alcohol, a person can have his or her license suspended for refusing to take the test. In Tennessee, just by virtue of driving on the road, you have preemptively given your consent to take this test, and your refusal will result in a charge of violating the “Implied Consent Law.”

Under recently changed U.S. and Tennessee law, motorists in Tennessee are no longer presumed to have given consent to another type of alcohol test, the blood test. Now, an officer can cause a person’s blood to be drawn only if they give consent in the form of a written waiver. Thus, there are no legal consequences for refusing a blood test.

If you don’t take the breath test, whether or not you are convicted of a crime, you will face a minimum of a license suspension for one year. If you’ve been in a crash where a victim has been injured, this penalty increases, even if the DUI charge is dismissed.

Challenging Alcohol Test Results

A DUI attorney can challenge the admissibility of alcohol tests. For example, a breathalyzer test may be inadmissible if the stop was illegal, the machine was not calibrated, or the officer did not administer the test properly. While every case is different, challenging the results of a blood test is generally more difficult and more expensive than challenging the results of a breath test.

If you’ve been charged with a DUI in Tennessee, particularly if you submitted to field sobriety tests or an alcohol test, you may want to let an experienced DUI attorney review your case to find the best possible outcome. Knox Defense can provide the help you need.

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