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Can I refuse a sobriety test?

The first time you see flashing lights in the rearview can be intimidating. You had a couple drinks and are afraid the police could charge you with driving while intoxicated (DWI). What are your options?

One thought that may cross your mind is to refuse a sobriety test. Is this option legal in New York?

Implied consent

Unfortunately, when it comes to chemical tests, you don’t have this option. New York has an implied consent law, which means that when you get behind the wheel you have already consented to chemical testing to measure your blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

In fact, refusing a chemical test could backfire. It is a separate violation from a DWI and could lead to a suspended license, even if you end up having a BAC below the legal limit. If you have a BAC above the legal limit, your refusal could be revealed in court.

What about field tests?

The key stipulation in an implied consent law is “chemical.” These tests evaluate blood, breath, urine or saliva, but some officers may ask you to perform a field sobriety test. Classic examples make include touching your fingers to your nose or reciting the alphabet backwards.

You can refuse a non-chemical sobriety test, and it some cases it may be better to refuse them. Field sobriety tests’ accuracy are often called into question, as the subjectivity of the officer determines the results. Even as field sobriety testing becomes more standardized, they are not definitively reliable.  

It is worth noting that refusing a field sobriety test could lead the officer to have probable cause for an arrest. However, refusing a field sobriety leaves less evidence available.

Knowing when happens the first time you are pulled over for a DWI can make a big difference in if and how penalties affect your life. 

 

 

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