Understanding DUI Tests & Your Rights
March 23, 2022
Even the most responsible drivers dread that sinking feeling when you see flashing lights in your rearview mirror. Getting pulled over by law enforcement can be extremely stressful, even if you don’t believe you’ve done anything wrong. It’s important that all citizens understand their rights and responsibilities when this happens, especially when it concerns a potential DUI arrest.
At Walker Law LLC, I’m committed to educating my clients about the laws surrounding DUIs and making sure they know what is and isn’t required of them during a traffic stop. If you have concerns about a recent DUI arrest and are in the Chesterfield, Missouri area, including Town and Country, Cottleville, or throughout St. Louis County and St. Charles County, call me today to set up a consultation.
Understanding Implied Consent in Missouri
Perhaps the most important thing to understand about DUIs in Missouri is the implied consent law. This law states that anyone who drives on Missouri roads can be required to take a blood, saliva, urine, or breath test if they’ve been lawfully arrested for a DUI. You can decline to take these tests, but you will face consequences for refusal in addition to any penalties that would come with a conviction. For refusing, you could face a one-year license suspension, which is known as a “chemical revocation.” This could possibly be reversed, but it may take some effort and is unlikely if this isn’t your first arrest.
Blood Alcohol Tests vs. Sobriety Tests
While implied consent requires that the driver submits to a chemical test, it does not require them to undergo field sobriety tests. The most common chemical test measures your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), and this is usually done with a hand-held breathalyzer test. If you are arrested and detained, you may be asked to take a different breath or blood test at the police station.
An officer, however, may also ask you to complete a field sobriety test with the intent of further assessing your level of impairment. Sometimes these tests can indicate whether or not someone is intoxicated, but they are not reliable and you do not have to consent to them. While you’re performing these tests, the officer will be looking for indications of impairment such as slurred speech, imbalance, difficulty understanding directions, or delayed response. But just because you don’t perform well on these tests does not mean that you’re drunk. There are many other reasons why you may not “pass” them that have nothing to do with alcohol consumption. Perhaps you were tired, had taken other legally prescribed medication, or have a medical condition that would affect your performance.
Types of Sobriety Tests
There are three main types of field sobriety tests that are used in a routine DUI stop. The first is the horizontal gaze test where an officer will ask you to look at a flashlight or pen and then follow it with your eyes as they move it back and forth. The officer will be looking for involuntary jerking of the eyes when the pen moves to the periphery of your field of vision. The next test is the walk and turn, in which an officer will ask you to walk in a straight line away from them, then turn and walk back toward them. They are looking for signs of poor equilibrium when walking and turning. Lastly, they may ask you to perform the one-leg stand test. In this test, you’ll be asked to stand with your hands to your side and one leg extended in front of you. You may also be asked to count up to a specific number while balancing.
Consequences of Refusal
Even though blood alcohol tests are required by law, you can still refuse them—but there will more than likely be penalties for refusal. For refusing a BAC test, the state may revoke your license for a year and you will have to fight to get it back, even if you’re found to be innocent. You can also refuse a field sobriety test, but an officer may use your refusal as grounds for an arrest. In this case, the best thing you can do is to comply with the arrest, but remain silent and contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The officer will need to prove that you were impaired when they arrested you and anything you say at this time could be used against you.
Powerful & Personal Legal Counsel
Getting pulled over on suspicion of a DUI can be a nerve-wracking experience, and this can be made even more distressing if you aren’t sure about your rights and obligations. Police officers are looking for evidence to help prove you’re under the influence, but many of the tests they regularly perform are inaccurate and can give a false impression that you’re impaired. If you’ve recently been arrested for drunk driving and would like to talk to an experienced DUI attorney, reach out to me at Walker Law LLC today. My office is in Chesterfield, Missouri, but I’m able to serve those throughout St. Louis and St. Charles County.