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Field Sobriety Tests Are Voluntary, Washington DUI Defense

Posted Friday, September 15, 2017 by Lizanne Padula.

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If you are pulled over on suspicion of Driving Under the Influence (DUI), the police officer may ask you to submit to a Field Sobriety Test (FST). In Washington State you are under no obligation to submit to a FST.

Field Sobriety Tests Are Voluntary

FST are typically administered roadside and require the driver to perform a number of physical tasks. If an officer asks you to exit your vehicle and complete a Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST), it is critical that you know your rights. Washington State law does not require you to submit to SFSTs.

A police officer may lead you to believe that you must take the SFSTs, but you are under no legal obligation to do so. In general, you can and should politely refuse to take any FST. These tests are not measured by an objective standard and typically will only serve to harm your DUI defense.

Supposedly FSTs are to help the officer determine whether or not a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol; however, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) laboratory research indicates that only three of the tests “when administered in a standardized manner” are highly accurate for distinguishing blood alcohol content (BAC) at or above the legal limit. These three FST are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), Walk and Turn (WAT), and One Leg Stand (OLS). (NHTSA DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing, March 2013 Edition, pg. 211).

First, SFST are not always administered in a standardized manner. Second, SFST results are subjectively evaluated by non-medically trained officers. In most cases the results of SFSTs will serve to bolster the Prosecution’s case against you and harm your ability to get a DUI charge reduced to a lesser charge. Therefore, in general it is in your best interest to politely refuse to submit to a SFST.

Submitting to A Breath Test Is Mandatory

While Field Sobriety Tests are strictly voluntary, breath tests are not. In Washington State you are required to submit to a breath test “for the purpose of determining the alcohol concentration” of your breath if the arresting officer has “reasonable grounds to believe the person had been driving or was in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug[.]” (RCW 46.20.308).

The punishment for refusing to submit to the breath test is at a minimum license suspension for at least one year. (RCW 46.20.308(2)(a)).

Hiring An Experienced Washington DUI Defense Attorney

If you submitted to SFSTs while being arrested for DUI, we can help. While the results of the Field Sobriety Tests may give the Prosecution evidence against you, our experienced DUI defense attorneys know how to pinpoint the weaknesses in the Prosecution’s case against you. Not every DUI can be beat, but we are able to eliminate or reduce most of them. Most of the DUI cases we handle at Padula & Associates, LLC are reduced to lesser charges or dismissed entirely.

Hiring an experienced DUI defense attorney can help you get the best possible outcome in your case. Come meet with us for a free consultation to explore how we can help you. Our attorneys have outstanding reputations. Lizanne Padula is a tireless negotiator and a tenacious litigator. Ms. Padula was appointed to serve as a Judge Pro-Tem in Snohomish County in May of 2017. She also serves as the Board President for Citizens for Judicial Excellence (CJE), teaches Ethics as part of the Continuing Legal Education credits (CLEs) offered by CJE, and teaches CLEs for the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (WACDL).

Padula & Associates, LLC will fiercely advocate on your behalf. For more than 20 years we have proudly defended the rights of people in King County, Snohomish County, and Washington State.

Call us 24/7 at 425-883-3366 of fill out this simple web form to schedule a free consultation with an experienced DUI defense attorney.