What Happens If You Refuse a Field Sobriety Test in Oklahoma?
Even if you’ve never taken a field sobriety test, you’ve probably seen one on TV: a person touches their nose as they take a few wobbly steps, or recites the alphabet backwards. While these aren’t real examples, a sobriety test in Oklahoma can be just as difficult – and can be used as evidence against you in court. That leaves many people wondering, what happens if you refuse a field sobriety test? And what if you’ve already failed one?
What Is Oklahoma’s Standard Field Sobriety Test?
The standard field sobriety test (SFST) is a set of three exercises developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Officers across the country use it during traffic stops to determine if you’re intoxicated.
The three tests an officer can ask you to perform are:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus: Nystagmus is a condition that makes your eyes jump uncontrollably, and it gets worse when you’re impaired. The test involves following a small object (like a pen) with your eyes. The officer uses the severity of your eyes’ movements to determine how impaired you are. This is the most common SFST, and also the most accurate.
- Walk and turn: The officer will instruct you to walk forward, heel to toe, then turn and do the same thing in the other direction. The test doesn’t begin when you start walking – they’ll also observe you as they give the instructions. If you can’t keep your balance, forget the instructions, or step off the line, that’s evidence of impairment.
- One-leg stand: You’ll lift one foot six inches off the ground and count out loud until the officer tells you to stop. Like the walk and turn, it’s meant to test your balance and your ability to remember instructions. If you sway, hop, or put your foot down, you could fail the test.
What About the Breathalyzer?
The breathalyzer isn’t considered part of a SFST, but it is another tool officers use to determine your intoxication level. However, because of Oklahoma’s implied consent law – which states that simply by driving, you’ve agreed to have your breath or blood tested – refusing to take a breathalyzer or blood test has different consequences. Your license will be automatically revoked for six months, and you’ll have to go through a hearing process to get it back. And, you can still be charged with a DUI if the state has other evidence against you.
Can You Refuse a Field Sobriety Test in Oklahoma?
Yes, you can absolutely refuse a field sobriety test in Oklahoma. SFSTs are completely voluntary – but that also means that, unlike the breathalyzer, officers aren’t required to read you an official statement before proceeding with the tests. They may simply start giving you instructions, like “Look at the tip of this pen,” which can make it sound like a requirement. Or they might tell you that the tests are to determine if they can let you go, which might tempt you to take them.
SFSTs are actually “pre-arrest screening,” designed to get you to provide evidence against yourself. The best way to respond is to ask the officer if you are required to do what they’re asking of you. (And know that the answer is “no.”) Always keep in mind that not only do you not have to perform these tests, you also don’t have to answer any questions they ask you.
What Happens If You Refuse a Field Sobriety Test?
Refusing a field sobriety test can prevent the state from gathering certain evidence against you, and it doesn’t have any direct legal consequences. But it also doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Officers’ personal observations (such as bloodshot eyes, alcohol on your breath, slurred speech, or even the traffic violation that gave them reason to pull you over) can still provide probable cause to arrest you and ask you to submit to a breath or blood test.
Ultimately, if you refuse a field sobriety test, the only thing that happens is that the state will have less evidence to use against you if you do end up being charged with a DUI.
Defenses Against Field Sobriety Tests
Because implied consent doesn’t apply to SFSTs, most DUI attorneys recommend refusing to take them at all. But what if you’ve already taken it, and you’re charged with a DUI? There are several defenses you can use to “poke holes” in a field sobriety test:
- For the horizontal gaze nystagmus, there are very specific standards for how to administer the test, including how close the object should be to your eyes and how fast the officer should move it. Caffeine, fatigue, and brain disorders can also cause you to fail this test.
- The walk-and-turn and one-leg tests should be conducted on a level, firm, and non-slippery surface. If you’re wearing heels or sandals, you have the right to remove your shoes. Leg, ankle, and knee injuries, as well as being overweight, can cause you to perform poorly. Even the weather conditions can affect these tests.
The Bottom Line
So what happens if you refuse a field sobriety test? The good news is there is no direct legal punishment. The bad news is that you can still be charged with a DUI. However, the fact is that even if you submit to a field sobriety test and pass, you can still be arrested for a DUI based on the officer’s observations—so there’s no reason to even take the chance.
Whether you’ve refused a field sobriety test or taken one and failed, your best bet is to call an experienced attorney to handle your case, like the experts at the Khalaf Law Firm. Contact us today for a free case evaluation, and we’ll take it from there.