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Should I Refuse a Field Sobriety Test in Illinois?

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Joliet, IL DUI defense attorney

Several things happen when a driver is pulled over under suspicion of driving under the influence in Illinois. After the police officer approaches the car, he or she may observe any unusual behavior or appearance of the driver. Officers will look for signs of drunkenness, including blood-shot or watery eyes, slurred speech, and the smell of alcohol. If the officer suspects impairment, he or she will ask the driver to exit the vehicle to perform a DUI field sobriety test. The officer can also administer a chemical test, but most of the time that kind of test is performed after a driver is taken into custody on suspicion of DUI and arrives at the police station.

What Types of Field Sobriety Tests Are Performed?

An officer may ask a driver to perform several different tasks during a field sobriety test, such as counting by fives or reciting the alphabet backward. However, there are three main types of standardized field sobriety tests that are recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

  1. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test: In the HGN test, the officer holds up a finger or pen and moves it back and forth, asking the driver to follow it with his or her eyes only. If there is substantial jerking of the eyes, or if the driver cannot follow the movement, the driver fails the test.

  2. The Walk-and-Turn Test: The driver is asked to take nine steps in a straight line before turning and taking another nine steps in the opposite direction. An officer is looking for lack of balance during the walk. If the driver has to stop to regain his or her balance at any time, uses his or her arms for balance, or takes the wrong amount of steps during the test, the driver fails the test.

  3. The One-Leg Stand Test: The officer will ask the driver to stand on one leg and count up from 1,000 until he or she is instructed to put his or her foot back down. If a driver loses balance or has to put his or her foot down before the test is over, the driver fails the test.

Since these tests are performed on-site at the stop, usually on a sidewalk or empty street, there are several factors that could make them inaccurate, which is why a driver may refuse to perform the tests. For example, even a sober person is likely to fail these tests if he or she suffers from a certain physical disability or a mental disorder that would prevent him or her from doing the tasks correctly. 

These tests may also be unreliable because of conditions at the testing site that could factor into a sober driver failing the sobriety test. If the pavement is wet or icy, this could throw off a person’s balance while performing the one-leg stand or the walk-and-turn tests.

Refusing a field sobriety test will typically result in the officer taking the driver into custody and performing a chemical blood alcohol test. The chemical test can also be refused, but the officer will then typically obtain a warrant for the test to be taken. The Illinois Secretary of State automatically suspends a motorist’s driving privileges for refusing to submit to chemical testing.

Contact a Joliet, IL DUI Defense Attorney

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a serious crime in Illinois. There are several consequences for a conviction, including loss of driving privileges and hefty fines. If you believe your rights may have been compromised during a traffic stop or field sobriety test, hire a lawyer from the Law Offices of Tedone & Morton P.C. to build your defense. To schedule a free consultation with a Will County criminal defense lawyer, call 815-666-1285.

 

Sources:

https://www.alcohol.org/dui/field-sobriety-test/

https://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/publications/pdf_publications/dsd_a118.pdf

 

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