Attorney DeBruin represents clients from across lower Michigan.

Attorney DeBruin represents clients from across lower michigan.

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Can I Refuse a Field Sobriety Test in Michigan?

On Behalf of | Oct 11, 2017 | Alcohol Offenses, Criminal Defense, Firm News, Legal Blog, OWI

Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are used by police to analyze your physical and mental capabilities when you are suspected of operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI/DUI). When officers ask you to perform one or more FSTs, they are reviewing how you move, whether you can maintain your balance, and whether you are capable of dividing your attention. When you have trouble walking, standing up straight, and doing more than one task at a time, this allegedly signals to the officers you may be intoxicated.

However, you should know your rights when it comes to FSTs in Michigan. While it is standard for officers to ask you to perform one or more FSTs during a traffic stop, you do not have to comply. Michigan law does not require you to submit to FSTs. The state’s implied consent law, which requires you to take a lawful chemical test to determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), does not apply to these physical and cognitive exams. If an officer asks you to perform one or more FSTs, you may politely declin

If you are arrested for an OWI/DUI anyway, your next step should be to call a Lansing DUI lawyer at DeBruin Law PLLC. Call us today at  517-324-4303.

The Three Standardized FSTs

There are three standardized FSTs:

  • The One Leg Stand Test- You will be asked to stand on one foot and hold the other about six inches off the ground while counting aloud starting at one thousand. After thirty seconds, you will be instructed to put your foot down.
  • The Walk and Turn Test- You will be asked to take nine steps forward, placing your heel to your toe each time. After nine steps, you must take numerous small steps to turn around and do the same coming back.
  • The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)- Your eyes involuntarily jerk when you look to the side at an extreme angle. This is not something you can control. However, when you are intoxicated, this involuntary jerking motion will occur at a lesser angle. You will be asked to look at an object and track its movement with your eye without turning your head. This enables an officer to look for the involuntary jerking of your eye prior to a 45 degree angle.

Only these three tests have been scientifically examined to determine their validity and level of accuracy in predicting intoxication. However, for the results of any of these three tests to be admissible during an OWI/DUI trial, the officer needs to have substantially complied with the guidelines on how to instruct you on this exam and grade the results. If the officer did not administer the test correctly, then the results will not be accurate and we will fight to have them ruled inadmissible as evidence.

And remember, you can refuse to take any of these three tests. The standardized FSTs are not required by law. If an officer directs you to start one of these tests, you can politely decline.

Non-Standardized FSTs

There are plenty of non-standardized FSTs that officers sometimes administer, including:

  • Touching your finger to your nose
  • Touching each finger on a hand to your thumb
  • Reciting the alphabet backward
  • Reciting numbers backward
  • Standing with your feet together, eyes closed, and head tilted back for 30 seconds

None of these activities are valid ways to determine whether or not you are inebriated. In truth, these so-called tests are not meant to be passed. They will almost always signal to an officer that you have been drinking, even when you are completely sober. However, Michigan law allows for these tests and your actions during them to be admitted into evidence as long as it complies with the states Rules of Evidence.

Like with the standardized FSTs, you have the right to refuse. You cannot be civilly or criminally punished for declining to participate in any FST.

Defending Against FSTs

You may not have known you could refuse FSTs when you were pulled over. Once you learn you could have said no, it can feel like you made a terrible decision. You may feel like you messed up your chances of avoiding a DUI conviction. However, this is not true. At DeBruin Law PLLC, we are prepared to aggressively fight back against an OWI/DUI charge, including challenging evidence derived from FSTs.

We will go over the traffic stop with you step by step to determine which tests the officer conducted and how you were instructed. If you were told to perform a task that is not a standardized FST, we will immediately pursue having this evidence ruled inadmissible. When it comes to standardized FSTs, we may do some more digging. The officers who conducted these exams need to be trained on how to do so properly and must have substantially complied with NHTSA’s standards. If we find the officers did not have the proper training to conduct one or more of these tests, which is absolutely necessary for the HGN test, or there is evidence they administered or graded the tests improperly, we will ask the judge to throw that evidence out.

Let an Experienced and Trusted Lansing DUI Lawyer Help

If you are facing an OWI charge and you submitted to one or more FSTs, contact us at DeBruin Law PLLC as soon as possible. A first-time OWI can result in up to 93 days in jail, up to 360 hours of community service, a six-month driver’s license suspension, and many other consequences. When facing these harsh penalties, the best thing you can do is work with an experienced attorney who is ready to build you the strongest defense strategy possible.

Call DeBruin Law PPLC at  517-324-4303 or use our online contract form to schedule a free case evaluation.