Can You Refuse to Take a Field Sobriety Test in Michigan?

Picture it: You are driving down the road and you get pulled over. The officer indicates that she smells alcohol on you. Now you are looking at having to step out of the car so the officer can determine intoxication by doing field sobriety tests. It can be scary and overwhelming to be under the scrutiny of an officer watching your every move. Should you fail these tests, you are looking for an arrest for Operating While Intoxicated, or OWI.

What is an OWI?

According to the Office of Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, OWI means that either alcohol or an illicit substance caused you to drive in a way that showed clear, visible intoxication. There are three types of violations that fall under OWI. They are:

  • Any intoxicating substance is in your body and it causes significant impairment of your ability to operate your vehicle safely.
  • Your blood alcohol content (BAC) is at or above .08.
  • A high BAC is a level that is at or exceeds .17

BAC can be determined through administering a chemical test which yields highly accurate results. After you have taken the chemical test and it shows that you have an illegal amount of alcohol in your system to be able to drive, you will be put under arrest and taken to the police station for processing. You may think to yourself, “If I did not get out of the car, I would not be in this position.” But, did you have a choice?

Can You Refuse Field Sobriety Tests in Michigan?

In Michigan, it is actually legal to refuse a field sobriety test. This is a reality many do not know and can make a difference for those who have alcohol in their systems while behind the wheel. There is no doubt, driving with excessive alcohol in your system is not a good idea. It is highly risky both physically and legally. If you get pulled over, you have a legal battle on your hands to get the charges dropped. If you get into an accident, the outcome can be catastrophic.

Should you find yourself in a situation in which you are facing an OWI, you need to enlist professional legal representation to protect your rights. Fighting a charge of DUI is something that is highly complex and is best done with the assistance of a qualified Birmingham DUI defense attorney

Hindsight is 20/20, so if you have been pulled over and asked to step out of your vehicle, you have a decision to make. Do you take the tests or to refuse? If you refuse to take the test, an officer will be unable to use poor performance as a means to prove your charges when you go to trial. There will also be a question of probable cause. If you do not take a field sobriety test, there will be no documentation to verify that you were indeed inebriated. If there is no evidence proving intoxication, your lawyer will argue that you were unlawfully arrested, which is a strategy that could result in your case being dismissed.

So, should you take a field sobriety test if you are pulled over? There is a good reason to refuse, but there are always two sides to every story. A refusal can make you look suspicious through the theory of “conscious of guilt.” What this legal jargon means is that you made a decision not to cooperate because you knew you were guilty. You, in fact, tried to cover up your illegal behavior.

There is some debate as to whether “conscious of guilt” violates due process. The reality is that most courts will uphold it. Here is why: As long as you were warned before you refused the test that it could be held against you, there is no violation of due process.

You do not have to be driving erratically to get pulled over. Expired tags, a blinker not working, headlights out, these are all things for which a police officer can pull you over. If the officer suspects that you have been drinking after pulling you over for another purpose, the officer will ask you to step out of the car to perform the field sobriety tests. 

Even if you refuse, that does not stop an officer from obtaining a warrant to have your BAC tested. Though you may think time passage will help lower your BAC, and it will, there are ways to determine what it was at the time you were pulled over. Forensic science can use your BAC measurement along with the lapse in time to determine what your BAC was at the time you were pulled over.

Are There Any Legitimate Reasons to Refuse a Field Sobriety Test?

There are a number of reasons a sober individual would refuse a field sobriety test. If you have a physical deformity or illness that you know will prevent you from passing the tests, you should refuse to take them. If you have balance issues, you may be physically incapable of passing these tests. You may refuse testing because you believe you were wrongly targeted by law enforcement.

The Romberg Balance Test is one of the field sobriety tests that is used by law enforcement. To pass the test, the subject will need to have accurate understanding and function of motion, vision, and accurate perception of how your limbs move in the space around you. The good news is that this test is not standardized, which means that how it is administered can vary by individual. For this reason, the test’s results are often something that can be successfully contested in court.

If you have been arrested and charged with an OWI, you need effective legal representation. The Michigan OWI defense attorneys at the Schwartz Law Group can provide you with the legal defense you need to help you through your OWI charge. Being charged with an OWI can lead to loss of your job or inability to gain employment. You could lose your driver’s license. All of these outcomes will negatively impact your life immensely, and you simply cannot risk it.

To improve your chances of a successful defense, call the Schwartz Law Group today. We will discuss your situation with you during a free consultation with one of our resourceful and knowledgeable Michigan criminal defense attorneys. Call us today at (248) 266-8720.