Do I Have to Take Roadside Tests?

If you are pulled over for a DWI in North Carolina, you are NOT required to take the standard field sobriety tests (SFSTs). 

These tests include:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN). When a person has consumed any impairing substance, his or her eyes will not smoothly move from side to side. Law enforcement officers are trained to detect this by holding up their finger and asking you to follow it with your eyes. If your eyes jerk at all, this is indicative of intoxication. 
  • Walk and Turn. The officer will ask you to walk in a straight line for nine steps, turn, and walk nine steps back. You are not to raise your arms for balance, and must step heel to toe. If you step off of the line (whether painted or imaginary), the officer will count this as a sign of impairment. Likewise, if you use your arms for balance, the officer will note this. 
  • One Leg Stand. The officer will request you stand on one leg and count out loud for a designated amount of time. You are not to use your arms for balance, sway, or put your foot down. If you do any of those, the officer will mark this as a sign of impairment.
  • Preliminary Breath Test (PBT). It is VERY IMPORTANT to distinguish the PBT from the Breathalyzer. If the officer has asked you to blow into a device, ask whether it is a PBT or Breathalyzer. You do NOT have to submit to a PBT. However, if your refuse to submit to a Breathalyzer, you will lose your license for a year. Make sure you know which test the officer is administrating. 

If you are pulled over and asked to submit to SFSTs, you have the legal right to refuse them. The officer may then take you down to the station and ask you to submit to a Breathalyzer or will obtain a warrant to draw your blood. Remember, refusing a Breathalyzer equals an automatic license suspension. 

Do not try to outsmart the SFSTs. North Carolina law enforcement officers are trained to recognize the signs of impairment and will not be fooled by any tricks. If you choose to refuse the SFSTs, do so politely and cooperatively (this can actually help your case if you end up in court). By refusing the SFSTs, the officer will have a higher burden to meet in order to arrest you. 

If you are charged with driving while intoxicated in Durham or Wake, contact Guirguis Law at (919) 832-0500 on how we can help guide you through the court system. 

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