January 20, 2023

What is a sobriety test?

As you know, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal. By drunk driving, you are putting yourself and others at risk of injury from a car accident. As such, it is the police’s job to enforce driving under the influence (DUI) laws.

The police can’t just pull over anyone during a traffic stop. Instead, they must have reasonable suspicion that a driver is intoxicated, such as swerving, violating traffic laws or seeing someone leave a bar and get into their car. During a traffic stop in which the police believe a driver is drunk, they may ask the driver to perform a sobriety test – this typically happens after the police see a copy of the driver’s license and registration and a series of questions.

Sobriety tests help the police confirm their suspicion that a driver is intoxicated. There are two forms of sobriety tests: standard field sobriety test (SFST) and breath test. The following explains what these tests are and some of your rights:

Standard field sobriety test (SFST)

Standard field sobriety tests are physical examinations. The police may ask a driver to step outside their vehicle and do one or more of the following:

  • Horizontal gaze test: this test involves having the driver focus on a single point, like a flashlight or finger, and follow it with their eyes.
  • Walk-and-turn test: the driver in this test is asked to walk on a straight line and walk back to where they started.
  • One-legged stand test: the police may ask the driver to balance on one leg for this test.

The police are looking for any signs that might suggest that the driver is drunk in these tests. If the driver is struggling to perform one or more of these tests then they could be charged with a DUI, or the officer may ask the driver to follow up with a breath test.

Breathalyzer or Breath Test: BAC & Sobriety Testing

A breath test, or breathalyzer, is a sobriety test that reads the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). If their BAC reads as 0.08% or higher, then they are illegally driving under the influence.

Can you refuse a field sobriety test in Michigan?

It depends. While a driver can refuse to do a standard field sobriety test without facing repercussions, if the driver refuses a breath test (also known as a breathalyzer), then they may be given criminal charges. People who face criminal charges, such as a DUI, often have to seek legal help when creating a strong defense.