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Standard Field Sobriety Test in Arizona

A law enforcement officer in the state of Arizona has the discretion to administer field sobriety tests to a person they may believe was under the influence of alcohol or drugs while driving a vehicle.  A law enforcement officer has the right to use reasonable grounds in their analysis to determine whether or not a test is warranted.  For instance, a person may be driving at an unusually slow speed or may be driving in the center of the road.  Other times a person may be pulled over for a traffic stop, such as having a headlight out, and observational factors such as blood shot eyes or strong alcohol odor may give the officer reasonable suspicion to warrant an arrest.

Generally, the first type of test administered in the state consists of the field sobriety tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  These tests include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, in which the driver is required to follow a light or finger with their eyes, the One Leg Stand balancing test, and the Walk and Turn Test.  It is important to know that a person is free to refuse to perform the field sobriety tests in the state of Arizona.  At this point, it is within a driver’s right to refuse to perform the field sobriety test and to ask to speak to their attorney.  Unfortunately, whether one decides not to perform the field sobriety test, or whether one consents to the test and fails, both can be used as evidence against the person in a trial.  Although the field sobriety test is not required for a DUI conviction, a failed test can only be added as extra evidence to a case against a driver suspected of driver under the influence.  For the person who has already refused to perform the test, case law in the state has ruled that refusal to take the tests doesn’t violat the 5th Amendment right of protection against self incrimination of one’s self.  In other words, a court may consider the person’s refusal to perform the tests as evidence of the person’s guilt.  Thus, although it may be prudent to refuse to perform the tests, it is also important to know that the evidence of not performing them will be admissible in a court of law.

In addition, an officer may also ask a person to undergo a preliminary breath test before an arrest.  If one performs the test, the result will be admissible evidence and will be used against the person.  Studies have shown that the preliminary breath test device (PBT) may not be as accurate as the blood or urine devices so one may want to use caution before agreeing to volunteer to this test.

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