Should I Refuse Field Sobriety Tests in Michigan? Grand Rapids Criminal Law Attorney Explains

May 11, 2016

Brian E. Gordon, Gordon & Hess, PLC

Operating while intoxicated is a common offense in Michigan, but many people do not know their rights during a traffic stop. As a result, they wind up facing charges that they may have avoided, or they give the prosecuting authority evidence to use against them.

Police officer giving a field sobriety test to a drunk driver.

Common mistakes during a traffic stop include:

  • Giving the officer permission to search the vehicle;
  • Providing too much information;
  • And consenting to field sobriety tests.

Michigan is an implied consent state, which means that drivers automatically consent to a chemical sobriety test. As a result, you will face penalties for refusing a breathalyzer test:

  • One year license suspension for the first offense
  • Two year license suspension for the second offense
  • Five year license suspension for the third offense

However, you can refuse to take a field sobriety test without penalty. Although this may make the officer suspicious, it could reduce the amount of incriminating evidence the prosecuting authority has against you. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your arrest, the breathalyzer results may be inadmissible, but if you fail a standardized field sobriety test, the prosecuting authority can still use that against you.

If you are facing OWI charges in Michigan, contact Gordon & Hess, PLC. Brian E. Gordon is a Grand Rapids criminal defense lawyer with a reputation for winning cases. Mr. Gordon can structure your defense and explain the potential outcomes of your case. Call 616-272-3331 today to schedule a free initial consultation.

Read on to learn more about the three standardized field sobriety tests:

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration explains, there are three standardized field sobriety tests:

  • The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test;
  • The Walk and Turn Test;
  • And the One Leg Stand Test.

During the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, the officer will see if the eye jerks at peripheral angles. Nystagmus is often exaggerated in people who are intoxicated.

The officer who conducts the HGNT will look for three signs of impairment:

  • Angle of jerking is not within 45 degrees;
  • Suspect shows distinct jerking of the eyes;
  • And the eye cannot follow a moving object.

The One Leg Stand Test evaluates the suspect’s balance and coordination. You will stand on one leg with the opposite foot 6 inches above the ground. You will then have to count aloud until the officer asks you to lower the leg.

The Walk and Turn Test also evaluates coordination. The suspect has to take nine steps heel-to-toe in a straight line, turn, and do the same in the opposite direction. According to the American Automobile Association, officers who conduct this test look for:

  • Signs of imbalance;
  • Ability to follow instructions;
  • Ability to touch the heel to the toe;
  • And the ability to walk in a straight line.

If you are facing OWI charges in Michigan, there may be several defenses that apply to your case. For example, if the stop was unlawful, certain evidence – such as the breathalyzer results and the results of your field sobriety tests – may be inadmissible in court.

A Grand Rapids criminal law attorney from Gordon & Hess, PLC can represent your interests. Schedule a free initial consultation today by calling 616-272-3331.

 

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