Can I Refuse Taking a Field Sobriety Test in Utah?

If the police pull you over for suspected DUI, one of the requests an officer may make is to take a field sobriety test (FST). These tests are designed to determine whether a driver is impaired due to alcohol or drugs, as well as support the probable cause required to make an arrest and justify administering a chemical test (e.g., breath, blood, or urine test). 

The following are the three standardized FSTs developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): 

  • One-leg stand – The officer will instruct you to stand with one foot approximately six inches above the ground and count for 30 seconds by thousands (e.g., one-one thousand, two-one thousand, etc.). If you sway, hop, use your arms to balance, or put your foot down, such actions may indicate intoxication. 

  • Walk and turn – The officer will instruct you to take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line. Once you reach the end of the line, you must turn around on one foot and then return in the same manner back to your starting point. Failure to take the proper number of steps, failure to follow instructions, or balance issues are all indicators of impairment. 

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) – The horizontal gaze nystagmus is the involuntary jerking of the eye when it looks from side to side. However, this jerking movement is exaggerated when a person is intoxicated. The officer will use a pen or small flashlight and instruct you to track the object with your eyes as he/she moves it from side to side. Common signs of impairment include failure to follow the object smoothly or distinct eye-jerking at maximum deviation. 

Unlike refusing a post-arrest breath or blood test, you do not face any penalties for refusing to take a field sobriety test. However, the officer will most likely still arrest you. 

Although the police and prosecution may attempt to use your refusal against you, the lack of FST results may make it more difficult to prove your impairment beyond a reasonable doubt, depending on the other evidence law enforcement officials may have collected. 

On the other hand, if you take and fail a field sobriety test, these tests are typically subjective and subject to human error, especially when administered by the police. 

If you have been arrested for a DUI in Utah, you need to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and freedom against serious criminal charges. Contact Lokken & Putnam today at (801) 829-9783 to learn how we can help you.