If you are stopped while driving in Maryland and are suspected of being under the influence, you may be asked to submit to a field sobriety test. The officer will probably ask you to get out of your car, and you are required to comply. However, you do not have to take a field sobriety test if requested, and it may not be in your best interests to do so.
What is a Field Sobriety Test?
When a police officer pulls someone over for suspicion of DUI, they may ask them to participate in a series of physical roadside tests. These are standardized tests developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and they are used to provide evidence for a DUI arrest. The three common field sobriety tests used in Maryland are:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. This is a test in which you stand face to face with the officer while they hold up a stimulus, such as a pen or light, that they move from side to side. The officer is looking for “jerking” in the eyes as they follow the stimulus, which may or may not be due to alcohol intake.
- One-Leg Stand Test. An officer will ask you to stand on one foot and count to 30 as they look for balance issues such as swaying and hopping, as well as time perception. Unfortunately, many sober people can’t complete this test.
- Walk-and-Turn Test. There are two parts to this test. First, you will have to stand with your arms extended and your right foot in front of your left while the officer explains the test. The officer may deem you “impaired” if you either can’t follow directions or can’t complete the tasks laid out in the test, such as walking heel to toe. There are many people with certain physical and psychological issues that would find this test challenging at best.
Can You Refuse a Field Sobriety Test?
In Maryland, there are no laws in place that say you must submit to a field sobriety test. People decline to take these tests for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with alcohol or drugs. These might include health problems that create balance issues, fatigue, anxiety, icy roads, or being parked on an incline that makes success with some of these tests nearly impossible. It’s important to understand, however, that refusal to take a test could create suspicion about impairment and give law enforcement cause to make an arrest.
The Different Types of Chemical Breath Tests and Penalties for Refusal
When an officer tries to get you to submit to a field sobriety test, he may also ask you to blow into a small box to measure your blood alcohol content (BAC). This is called a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT), and you are under no legal obligation to consent to this test. Even if you do take the test, the results are not necessarily admissible in court.
The other test is one that is administered at the police station. Maryland is an “implied consent” state, meaning you agree to take one of these tests if you are arrested for DUI, and there are penalties for refusal. If you decline the test, your driver’s license will automatically be suspended for 270 days or you will be required to use an ignition interlock device on your car. The only time you cannot outright refuse a chemical test at the police station is when you were involved in an accident that resulted in severe injury or death.
Get Help from an Experienced Maryland DUI Lawyer
A DUI or DWI conviction can have life-changing consequences, so this is something that you want to avoid at all costs. Having something like this on your permanent record can impact your ability to get a job, find a place to live, and even go to school. An experienced Maryland DUI attorney can help you avoid or limit many of the consequences of a DUI arrest.
If you are facing these serious charges, seek legal advice as quickly as possible. Jonathan Fellner, Attorney at Law, has been aggressively defending Maryland DUI cases for more than 15 years. He will explain your options and do what is necessary to protect your rights and freedom. Contact our Rockville office now at 301-309-2000 or online to schedule a free consultation.