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Are you required do a field sobriety test?

You are on your way home after dinner with friends, after having consumed one or two drinks. You feel as though you are safe to drive home, so you do. On your way home, you see police lights flashing in your rear-view mirror.

If the police officer suspects that you are intoxicated and asks you to complete a field sobriety test, are you obligated to? Is it against the law to say no?

Tennessee field sobriety law

Unlike chemical sobriety (blood, breath and urine) tests, Tennessee law states that you are not required to submit to a field sobriety test. Field sobriety tests include:

  • Walk-and-turn: take nine paces in a straight line, then turn and walk back
  • One-leg standing: Stand with one foot off the ground for 30 seconds
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus: looking for normal movement of the eye

Are they accurate?

If a police officer requests that you participate in field sobriety testing, you may refuse without consequences. Individuals assume that because field sobriety tests are a routine test when suspected of a DUI, that they are completely accurate. Unfortunately for drivers that are pulled over, police are not always accurate in determining your level of intoxication when they have suspects perform the tests. Researchers have found that police are:

  • 68 percent accurate for the walk-and-turn test
  • 65 percent accurate for the one-leg standing test
  • 77 percent accurate for the horizontal gaze nystagmus test
  • 82 percent accurate when all three tests were performed together

If ever a police officer pulls you over for suspicion of a DUI, remember that you are not required to perform the field sobriety tests.

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Law Offices of Thomas Maynard
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