What are My Rights During a DUI Field Sobriety Test?

Over 26,000 DUI arrests were made in Illinois in 2017. Did all of these arrests involve a DUI field sobriety test?

The short answer is probably not. The long answer requires a conversation about Illinois state law and your rights under that law.

Knowing the Illinois rules of the road can stop you from getting yourself into trouble, and help you navigate your way through it if you’ve already gotten a DUI.

Here is information you need to know about DUI field sobriety tests, DUI penalties, and more.

What is a DUI Field Sobriety Test?

A DUI field sobriety test is used by police officers to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest. In other words, they use these tests that give them the right to arrest the driver, even if they don’t know that they are above the legal BAC level. Note that the BAC limit for drivers 21 and older is 0.08, and 0.00 for underaged drivers.

Now, let’s take a quick look at the three different field sobriety tests police officers may use.

Walk and Turn

The officer will demonstrate this test before asking the driver to complete it. First, the driver will walk nine steps by placing the heel of one foot to the toe of the other foot. The driver will then return to their starting spot the same way.

The objective is to walk a straight line without losing balance and to be able to follow instructions.

One-Leg Stand

Once again, the officer will demonstrate this test. The driver will raise one foot about six inches off the ground and count, beginning at 1,000 and going up to 1,030. Then, the driver may need to repeat the process while raising the other leg.

The objective is to remain upright without lowering the raised foot or wobbling from side to side.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus 

The officer will not demonstrate this test first, but they will explain it. They will hold a pen or other small object about one foot from the driver’s face. They may move it up and down or side to side while the driver follows with their eyes, holding their head still.

The officer is looking for signs that the driver’s eyes cannot stay focused or skip around during the process. 

Are You Required to Take One?

Let’s say an Illinois police officer spots you driving erratically. If you’ve been weaving in and out of your lane or changing speeds rapidly, they’ll probably begin looking for signs of intoxication right away. If you’re exhibiting signs such as slurred speech or the inability to maintain eye contact, they may ask you to take a field sobriety test. 

The question is, do you do it?

Remember that a field sobriety test is designed to give the police officer probable cause that you are above the legal BAC. They’re also subjective, which means that the police officer can decide that you’ve failed, even if you feel that you’ve passed. Consenting to one is not always an advisable move.

In fact, you want to maintain a polite and reasonable demeanor, but answer as few questions as possible before you have representation present. 

What if the Officer Threatens You?

What happens if you refuse to take the field sobriety test and the officer threatens you? They may tell you that your refusal to cooperate is going to have negative repercussions later on. 

Note that refusing to take a field sobriety test is well within your rights. It is the chemical test you might need to worry about. 

If an officer asks you to take a chemical sobriety test, they are required by law to inform you of the consent law. The consent law states that by possessing a license, you have consented to take a chemical test. 

Because arguing with a police officer isn’t ideal, you may want to take the field sobriety test. However, make sure to inform them that you are doing so as a result of their threat and that you are not giving consent. This can be used in your defense in court. 

DUI Penalties

What happens if you do receive a DUI? In the state of Illinois, the minimum penalties for a DUI go up in severity the more frequently you get them.

For example, after your first offense, you might not be sentenced to jail. After your second offense, you will receive a mandatory sentence of at least 5 days in jail. In some cases, you might be able to do 30 days of community service in lieu of your jail sentence.

Whether it’s your first DUI or your third, you will temporarily lose your license. After your first DUI, the minimum for suspension is a 6-month period. After that, the minimum is raised to one year.

It is important that you work with a legal team before your first court date. Lawyers and advocates know how to review your case and look for signs that an officer coerced you into taking the field sobriety test or exaggerated the results. 

Find Legal Representation for a DUI

If you’re an Illinois driver and recently failed a DUI field sobriety test or otherwise received a license suspension, we’re here to help.

Contact us today for your free 30-minute consultation. You tell us what happened, and we’ll tell you what you’re up against and how we can be of service. 

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