There are three standard field (physical coordination) tests that police often administer as a perquisite to further testing. These tests include the horizontal gaze test, one-legged standing test, and the walk and turn test. As a general rule (and unlike chemical testing), there is no legal penalty for refusing to take these tests although the arresting officer can testify your refusal in court.
In most cases, if an officer suspects that you are driving under the influence, “implied consent laws” require you to take a chemical test (using your blood, breath, or urine) to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC). Implied consent laws say that by just driving on the road, you are agreeing to take a chemical test to assess your BAC. Implied consent laws vary by state – particularly about which test is required and when it should be given– but every state has them, so in every state you must take the test.
Timing of the Test
In some states, a chemical test must be given within a particular timeframe – usually within a few hours of the time that you were driving. However, even if you took the test after that time, you may still be found guilty of a DUI because even if you can’t be charged with having a BAC over .08 (the legal limit for those 21 years and older), just based on the officer’s observations of your impairment. To learn about the required timing of chemical tests in your state, go to DUI/DWI Laws in Your State.
Refusing to Take the Test
If you refuse to take the test, you will face heavy penalties – possibly worse than if you were found guilty as a result of the test. The penalties vary by state and usually include a combination of a fine, jail time, license suspension, and requirement to use an ignition interlock device. Additionally, when your case goes to court, the prosecution can use your refusal against you – saying that you knew you were intoxicated and that’s why you refused to take the test. For all of these reasons, it usually does you no good to refuse to take a chemical test.
On the other hand, if you realize that you are very intoxicated, you’ve had prior DUIs, and you know that the penalty for the current event would be worse than refusal, then refusing the test might work to your advantage.