Consent to Field Sobriety Testing in Atlanta
Under Georgia law, it is not mandatory to submit to field sobriety testing. Many drivers are unclear on this point, and submit to roadside testing even when they have the right to refuse. The common problem that drivers face is that police officers may not make the voluntary nature of field sobriety tests known. Often times, officers make it appear that the drivers do not have a choice when it comes to submitting to sobriety tests.
Testing blood, breath or urine for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) provides a more accurate picture of a driver's level of intoxication than field sobriety tests. Under Georgia state law, a driver is per se in violation of drunk driving laws with a BAC of 0.08 percent or more. (This level is lowered to 0.02 percent for underage drivers and 0.04 percent BAC for commercial drivers).
The purpose of field sobriety tests for law enforcement is to gather evidence of intoxication before arrest. Most of the time, if Atlanta police ask a driver to take the tests, they are already convinced that the driver is under the influence, and plan to arrest the driver. Testing the driver with the three standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) will provide evidence of intoxication in addition to the blood alcohol test to be performed at the police station. This way, if a driver fails the field sobriety tests, but tests just under the legal BAC limit, the prosecutor could still argue the driver was unlawfully intoxicated.
The three SFSTs, developed in cooperation with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, consist of the eye test, one leg stand test, and the walk and turn test. Police are trained in how to administer these three sobriety tests, to look for very specific signs of intoxication, and score the driver to determine the level of intoxication.
Refusal of All Field Sobriety Tests
Unlike chemical testing, under Georgia law there is no implied consent to field sobriety testing. By driving on state roads, the law considers drivers to have consented to chemical testing of the blood, urine or breath after an arrest for a DUI. However, this implied consent law does not extend to field sobriety tests or chemical tests requested before arrest.
Field sobriety tests are voluntary, and can be refused. There are a number of external factors which could result in “failing” field sobriety test, even if the driver is not intoxicated. For this reason, field sobriety tests may not be advisable. If a driver wishes to refuse all field sobriety tests, they should politely inform the officer that they have been advised by their lawyer not to submit to field sobriety tests.
Georgia DUI Defense
If you or a loved one have been charged with driving under the influence in Atlanta, you need to understand that does not have to mean a DUI conviction. If you refused the field sobriety tests before arrest, or were arrested after roadside testing, you deserve a lawyer who has the same training and knowledge as the police officers. I am certified as an instructor to teach the police how to administer field sobriety tests and will use this knowledge to find the mistakes the police made, to keep your driving record clean. Call me today.