An Individual Is Not Obligated To Perform The Standardized Field Sobriety Tests In Alabama
Interviewer: As far as standardized field sobriety tests, are people actually even obligated to take these?
Zach Peagler: No they’re not. In Alabama, you’re obligated to provide your driver’s license upon request to the police officer and to get out of the car if they request you to get out of the car but you are not obligated to take any field sobriety tests. Now, the fact that you refused to take any field sobriety tests can be used in court as an indicator or a suggestion that you were impaired but you are not obligated to take them.
A Refusal to Perform the Field Sobriety Test Can be Construed as an Indicator of Impairment by the Judge or a Jury
Interviewer: Would you say that if someone were to refuse the standardized field sobriety tests, does that help or hinder their case?
Zach Peagler: If they refuse, like I said, they can use it as an indicator that the person was impaired but that’s not a definitive, it doesn’t mean that you are guilty of something, only that the jury or judge could consider that would suggest impairment. But you would have the ability to rebut that suggestion if there were validated reasons why you might not have taken the tests, so the defendant would have the opportunity to explain why he or she didn’t take the test. Sometimes it could be for health reasons, it could be that they were so nervous and they felt like the police officer was already going to take them to jail anyway.
There Could be A Number of Reasons Behind the Refusal to Perform Field Sobriety Tests
It could be the conditions seemed unfair because they were wearing high heeled shoes or they had knee surgery recently or the grating of the road was steep, or they were on gravel, it was dark, a number of reasons that they would not want to take the test, other than the allegation that they were drunk. But if you take the test, and there is a dash cam and you are not impaired, you performed well on the tests, you can make a strong case before the jury that you were not impaired. By the same token you can convict yourself if you were impaired and you performed poorly on the field sobriety tests. That’s going to be a tough hill to climb, to try to get an acquittal if you performed poorly on the field sobriety tests.
Typically After the Field Sobriety Tests the Officers Administer a Breathalyzer Test as Well
Interviewer: Is the field sobriety test going to be enough or are they going to give them a breathalyzer after that?
Zach Peagler: Typically in most cases that we see now in Alabama, they will administer some sort of field sobriety test and they will use that as probable cause to then ask the person to take a portable breath test on the side of the road and if that comes back higher than a 0.08, they would use that as further probable cause to then arrest the person, take them to jail and then ask them to perform a Draeger breath test at the jail which is the scientifically verifiable blood alcohol test in Alabama.
The Results of the Breath Test are Not Admissible in Court as They’re Not Scientifically Verifiable
Interviewer: What happens if I perform these tests and then refuse a breathalyzer? What may happen?
Zach Peagler: They can arrest you, I mean depending on how you performed on the field sobriety tests and then if you refused the breathalyzer, they can still arrest you on the side of the road. In Alabama, the portable breath test, the results of those tests are not admissible in court because they are not scientifically verifiable but they can be used as an instrument to gain probable cause to help make an arrest.
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