Hi, i’m attorney Roger Priest with Vanwa Legal PLLC.
I’m a local dui attorney in Vancouver, Washington, and today i’m going to answer a question for you that i often hear from potential clients and my clients

“Do i need to take field sobriety tests?,” or “should i take field sobriety tests?”

There is no perfect answer for this question.
First off you are not required by law to perform field sobriety tests. They are voluntary and law enforcement is supposed to tell you that they are if you are asked to take field sobriety tests.
Of course, you can refuse those tests, however, you need to understand that law enforcement will likely go ahead and make an arrest if they suspect that you are driving under the influence, whether you take them or not.
Also, if you do take them you will be providing evidence that can be used against you in a subsequent DUI trial.
Those tests are designed specifically to figure it out potential impairment that can be then used in a later trial, and most of my clients don’t even know how the tests work. I often hear this common refrain in DUI meetings “I pass the field sobriety tests” and clients believe that, without ever having read the report from the officer which tells them whether they did or not.
That’s generally because people don’t understand how field sobriety tests work.
The tests are designed to look for a myriad of very subtle clues of impairment. Think of it like a very long checklist, and for each small thing they find, they make a little check mark. If they tally up enough of these very subtle clues, then they would then decide that you have failed the test, and there is no way for you to know what those subtle clues are that they’re looking for, unless you had studied this beforehand.
Most people don’t know they simply believed that they passed the test because they completed the test, when in reality, I have never seen a DUI arrest report where a client has passed the field sobriety tests.
It is very rare that I ever hear of someone passing the field sobriety test because those people don’t end up getting arrested, so if you are asked to take a field sobriety test and you choose to do it, understand that that can hurt your case. At the same time, if you refuse to take a field sobriety test, that can also be used against you.
Washington law currently allows for a prosecutor to comment and argue at trial that you’re refusing to take field sobriety tests is in fact evidence of guilt that can be used against you.

What’s better: should i take the field sobriety test which could be used against me, or should I not take the test which can be used against me?

Ultimately that is a very personal question and there is no silver bullet answer that i can give you which is going to guarantee that you’re going to get out of a DUI.
My focus here is to provide you with as much information as possible.
Now if you refuse field sobriety tests and you have a good reason other than simply “I thought I was going to fail them because I was impaired” then, you can make that argument to a jury as well there are a number of reasons why people can refuse a pill sobriety test:
  1. They have a physical injury that prevents them from being able to do any kind of physical balancing or things like that nature
  2. People are often asked to do field sobriety tests on the side of the interstate which is a very dangerous place to be outside of your car. Standing outside your car in the breakdown lane of an interstate while cars are driving by at 70 miles an hour or so could get you killed, and of course, if you voiced these objections to law enforcement at the time they were not going to let you go, but you could make a record for use at your later trial that you had a valid reason for re refusing these tests.

So keep that in mind if you are ever charged with a DUI you are not required to take the test, but just because you don’t choose not to take the test doesn’t mean that that decision is consequence-free.

If you have further questions about your DUI, please give us a call at Vanwa Legal i’d be happy to discuss your case with you and see if there’s something we can do to help you.

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