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Can I refuse a sobriety test?

After a night of fun, you find yourself on the side of the road, headlights in the rearview mirror. You’ve been pulled over and you’re worried you may be considered legally impaired. What can you do?

Many people in this same scenario may consider refusing a sobriety test if the officer asks for one. Can you do this legally?

Implied consent and chemical testing

Ohio is an “implied consent” state, which means that if you are behind the wheel, you have indirectly given consent to any chemical tests of your blood, breath or urine to determine if you are impaired by a controlled substance.

While you can legally say no to submitting a chemical test on the side of the road and ask to submit your test at the police station, it will lead to an automatic one-year suspension of your license. In this case, you may need a strong defense to reinstate your driving rights. You do have the right, however, to refuse a portable Breathalyzer test without penalty.

But what about field sobriety tests?

Field sobriety tests are the ones you may have seen on television: one-legged stand, walk-and-turn, ABCs backwards and more. Because these tests are not a chemical test, you can refuse to take one without penalty.

Field sobriety tests have become more standardized over the years, but often they are still subjective. This is especially true with those who are trying to determine if you are impaired by marijuana, as the testing is not as black and white as a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test.

For example, in Massachusetts there are Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) who go through breathalyzer results to decide if the driver is impaired. While those officers are trained for that job, there is still room for error. Therefore, if you are in a similar situation in Ohio, refusing a field sobriety test could save you from being in a similar situation, wasting your time and money.

Knowing the difference between sobriety tests and what your rights of refusal are for each one can help you build a defense that keeps you from facing harsh penalties. 

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