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Did you know that field sobriety tests are optional?

When you saw the flashing lights in your rearview mirror, you may have wondered whether your breath still smelled of the beer or wine you had with dinner. You may have even second-guessed your decision to drive as you pulled off the roadway.

You rolled down your window and asked the officer what was wrong. After a couple of minutes, the officer asked you whether you had anything to drink and asked you to step out of your vehicle. You may already know not to answer any questions not pertaining to your identity, vehicle registration and other basic questions. However, did you know that you don't have to agree with the next question?

Will you participate in field sobriety tests?

In many Georgia police departments, an officer will ask you to participate in one or all of the following field sobriety tests:

  • The one-leg stand test
  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus test
  • The walk-and-turn test

These three tests make up the Standard Field Sobriety Test that the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration endorses when attempting to establish a driver's impairment. Fortunately, you can decline to participate with full confidence. That's because you are not legally obligated to take the tests. It doesn't matter how many times the officer asks, you do not have to comply. An officer may attempt to tell you that you have to participate or that if you don't it makes you look guilty, but don't believe him or her.

Will you participate in a breath test?

When it comes to breath tests, however, things get a lot trickier. You may refuse to take the preliminary alcohol screening, but if you refuse to take the more sophisticated breath test at the police station or jail, you could face automatic consequences, such as the loss of your license. You may refuse to consent to a blood test and require police to obtain a search warrant for it from a judge unless you are unconscious or otherwise unable to perform a breath test or consent to the blood test.

Regardless of whether you participate in field sobriety tests or breath tests, you could find yourself under arrest for DUI. If that happens, it could have significant ramifications on your personal and professional lives outside of the potential criminal penalties. It may be a good idea to begin developing a defense strategy as soon as possible.

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