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Can I Refuse to Take a Field Sobriety Test in SC?

Can I Refuse to Take a Field Sobriety Test in SC?

When you are pulled over by South Carolina law enforcement officials on suspicion of a DUI/DUAC, a police officer may ask you to perform a “field sobriety test” (FST). There are two main types of FSTs: standardized tests by the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHSTA) and non-standardized tests. 

Law enforcement officials may use a combination of one of the following three NHTSA-standardized tests to determine if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs: 

  • One-Leg Stand (OLS) – The officer will instruct you to stand with your feet together and your arms down your sides. Then you will be asked to stand with one of your feet six inches from the ground and maintain that position for at least 30 seconds. The officer will take note of any balance issues and your ability to count correctly. 

  • Walk-and-Turn (WAT) – The officer will instruct you to walk – in a heel-to-toe manner – for nine (9) steps along a straight line with your hands at your side. After taking the ninth heel-to-toe step, you must turn on one foot and return in the opposite direction in the exact same heel-to-toe manner. The officer will look for any balance issues, any arm movements, your ability to count and take the correct number of steps, and your ability to follow directions. 

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) – The officer will use a pen, flashlight, or even his/her finger and instruct you to follow it with your eyes. While the object is being moved from side to side within your field of vision, you are not allowed to move your head. The officer will look for jerky or shaking eyes since it is allegedly an indication of intoxication. 

While NHTSA-standardized tests are used to help the police establish probable cause, non-standardized sobriety tests are often used to gather more evidence against you – even after probable cause has been established. 

Here are a few non-standardized tests: 

  • Finger-to-nose test – The officer will instruct you to close your eyes while your arms are outstretched toward each side. You will then be asked to touch your nose with your index finger from each arm, one at a time. 

  • Alphabet or counting test – The officer will instruct you to recite the alphabet or count up to a certain number, either forward or backward. 

  • Rhomberg balance test – The officer will instruct you to close your eyes and tilt your head up and down for up to 30 seconds. You will be judged on your ability to stay still, as well as sense time and your surroundings. 

It is important to know that you have the right to refuse to take a field sobriety test in South Carolina. Yet, the officer may still decide to arrest you, despite not having your results from these tests. 

Remember, just because you were arrested does not mean you are automatically guilty of the offense. You still have an opportunity to contest the charges against you with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. 

If you have been arrested for a DUI/DUAC in Lexington or Columbia, contact the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC today at (803) 359-3301 for a free case evaluation. 


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