Everything You Need to Know about Field Sobriety Testing in Arizona
Field sobriety testing is used as a general term but it actually consists of different practices. Field sobriety testing in Arizona is standardized and its purpose is to help police officers determine whether vehicle operators are impaired in any way.
Commonly Used Field Sobriety Tests
A field sobriety tests consists of certain acts that a police officer asks a vehicle operator to perform. These are used to test one’s motor skills, coordination and reactions. The driver’s inability to do the test could be indicative of intoxication.
While various different field sobriety tests exist, Arizona police officers are most likely to rely on the following approaches:
- Walk and turn: a suspect will be asked to walk nine steps in a straight line, turn around on one foot and walk back to the start. This test does two things – it shows the suspect’s coordination and it’s also indicative of their ability to follow through with the instructions provided by the law enforcement officer.
- One-legged stand: a very simple and highly effective test that is very often the first one to be performed. The driver will be asked to stand on one leg while the other is lifted into the air. Once again, the test is indicative of coordination. A person who has consumed alcohol will most likely lose their balance. Sober people don’t have any problems with this test but intoxicated individuals are typically going to fail.
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus test: the police officer will ask you to follow a light with your eyes. Usually, involuntary eye darting occurs when intoxicated people look to the side. Extreme eye jerking and inability to follow through with the instructions could suggest that the suspect has consumed significant amounts of alcohol.
Your Rights and Obligations
Even if a police officer asks you to do a field sobriety test, you are not obliged to follow through. At this point, you may get detained. Ask politely to call your attorney and refuse to provide additional information. Remember that everything you share could potentially be used against you.
It is possible to fail the field sobriety tests, even if you have not consumed alcohol.
For many people, nervousness and medical conditions will play a role. If you have hip or back injuries, you will not be asked to do such tests. The same applies to individuals who are overweight. When the field sobriety test is administered to such an individual, it will very often produce a false positive.
A field sobriety test is a subjective one. Thus, it may be in your best interest to refuse it, whether you’ve had a drink or you’re completely sober. A failure to perform could contribute to an unnecessary arrest.
Chemical Tests Following Field Sobriety Testing in Arizona
You have the right to refuse a field sobriety test. If a police officer suspects intoxication, however, they may opt for another type of test. A breathalyzer may be used or a blood sample will be drawn for the purpose of checking the vehicle operator’s blood alcohol content (BAC).
Under Arizona regulations, you do not have the right to refuse a chemical test. If you do, you will face license suspension.
Even if your BAC is within the acceptable limit, a refusal to do the test may be used against you. Keep in mind that a police officer could potentially obtain a search warrant that will oblige you to give a blood sample. Thus, unlike field sobriety tests, chemical BAC tests aren’t to be refused.
A police officer will usually ask a driver to do a BAC test when they already have some suspicion about intoxication. A prosecutor could present the refusal as an admission of guilt, which is why you should cooperate and get in touch with your lawyer as soon as possible.