Imagine a local police officer or Georgia state trooper has pulled you over on the highway or a Cartersville road. The officer asks you to step out of your vehicle to perform some tests. “These tests will show me if you are sober enough to drive,” the officer says.
What our imaginary officer is referring to are called field sobriety tests. They are designed to help arrest people on DUI charges. And in Georgia, you do not have to submit to them.
What are field sobriety tests, and what are they for?
Even if you have never been pulled over on suspicion of drinking and driving before, you probably know at least one of the common field sobriety tests. There is the walk-and-turn test, where the officer orders the subject to walk heel-to-toe in a straight line for a certain number of steps, turn, and walk back. There is also the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. For this one, the officer tells the driver to follow the officer’s finger with their eyes as the officer passes it across the driver’s face. If the driver’s eyes jerk while looking back and forth, that could be a sign of intoxication.
There are other tests, but what they all have in common is that they are designed to uncover evidence of alcohol impairment. When you are detained during a traffic stop, you are under investigation for a crime, specifically DUI. It is not your duty to help the police make a case for arresting you.
The consequences of declining to take a test
In Georgia, it is not against the law to decline to take field sobriety tests. It is important to understand that refusing field sobriety tests will not necessarily stop an officer from arresting you, but you do not have to assist the officer in building their case against you for DUI. Field sobriety tests are simply investigatory tools that help the officer prove their DUI case against you. Another important aspect to note is that refusing field sobriety tests will not result in penalties on your license, but the refusal of Georgia State Administered Testing (SATs for short) can result in the court suspending your driver’s license. Georgia SATs are used to screen your blood, breath, or urine to chemically test for levels of intoxicants AFTER you have been read implied consent. Refusal of the State Administered Testing can result in the issuance of a Form- 1205. Alternatively, an officer may seek a search warrant for your blood, breath, or urine if you choose to refuse the state-administered tests, but your attorney can check the validity of such a search warrant. There are some cases where a search warrant can be proven to be invalid. An individual that receives a Form- 1205 for refusal of the Georgia SATs will have to deal with a one-year suspension of their license unless the suspension is properly appealed through the Department of Driver Services. Losing your driving privileges can seriously affect your life, but that loss should be weighed against the possibility of a DUI on your record, which could cost you a lot more than a temporarily suspended license.