Refusing Sobriety Tests: Legal Trouble or Not?

Policeman with alcotest device

At McCririe Law, we often get asked whether or not one can refuse to test for alcohol when pulled over by a police officer. There are different ways an officer can assess and determine you are under the influence of a substance. Field Sobriety tests are a quick way for officers to evaluate their suspicion of driver intoxication. Additionally, Breathalyzers and blood tests can assess your specific bodily alcohol content (BAC). Each test is different and we will discuss whether you can refuse them.

Field Sobriety Test is a way to “observe” the chemical impairment of a driver and whether the police officer has probable cause for arrest. There are three typical field sobriety tests. The first is called the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (GNT). It involves the driver following an object (such as a pen) with the eyes to determine eye movement reaction. The second is The Walk-and-Turn Test (WAT). In this test, the police will ask you to walk heel to toe in a straight line. At one point, the driver must then turn and walk back in the same way. The last field sobriety test we’ll discuss is the One-Leg-Stand Test (OLS). Here the officer will ask the driver to stand with feet together and arms at the side. Then, the officer asks the driver to lift one leg – keeping it straight with the foot pointed out – off the ground by 6 inches. The officer will request the participant to count then…1006, 1007, 1008. But, you may be wondering if you can refuse such sobriety tests.

Can you refuse a field sobriety test?

Yes. You can decline one without penalty. Field sobriety tests are entirely voluntary, and you may politely refuse to take one. The police officer may also ask you to take a test measuring alcohol levels in your breath.

A test administered roadside (often called a breathalyzer) is a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT). It is given after an officer pulls you over for suspected intoxication. The PBT is not the same breath test used in a police station, which we will discuss later. The PBT is a portable device in which an intoxicated person blows into a mouthpiece. The person’s breath initiates a chemical reaction indicating the presence of alcohol. The officer uses the results to confirm a suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Of course, if you are pulled over and asked by an authority to take a PBT, you would feel the need to comply. However, can you deny it?

Can you refuse a roadside breathalyzer test?

The quick answer is: Yes, you can refuse to blow into the PBT device, but there are consequences. It is considered a civil infraction to refuse to take a PBT at the scene and will likely cost you $150 plus court fees. If you are issued a ticket, it is essential to contact an attorney because there are deadlines to fight it.

If the police arrest you because they suspect you are intoxicated, you are taken to a station. At that point, you are under Michigan’s implied consent laws. This means that obtaining a Michigan driver’s license suggests your consent to be tested (via breath, urine, or blood) if an officer arrests you on suspicion of drunk driving. Once at the police station, there will be another request to take a DataMaster Breathalyzer test, which is more accurate than the roadside test. Refusal to take this test will allow the police to charge you with drunk driving, and other penalties could apply. If you fail to take the DataMaster Breathalyzer, police can obtain a search warrant. If a warrant is obtained, a blood test to determine BAC may be the subsequent request.

Can you refuse a blood test?

If the police request a blood test, you can refuse it. However, remember the implied consent laws are applied once you are under arrest. Not taking the blood test can result in the suspension of your driver’s license or other negative consequences, such as six points added to your record. Refusing a blood test to determine BAC is not considered a crime, but you will want an attorney, like McCririe Law, to represent you to mitigate the penalties. These penalties become more stringent with each subsequent arrest for drunk driving.

Retain a DUI Lawyer Immediately

A DUI can affect your life, from the loss of a driver’s license to increased auto insurance. An experienced DUI defense attorney can save a driver’s license from getting suspended. It can also get a DUI charge reduced or dismissed. We advise you do not enter a courtroom without an attorney present, even if it is your first DUI offense. Your best chance of winning a case and avoiding penalties is by hiring an experienced law firm. McCririe Law has over 39 years of representing clients facing DUI charges. Contact us for a free consultation.