The answer is NO, you will not get in trouble if you refuse to take the DUI field sobriety tests because they are voluntary tests. Meaning any person asked or told to take the field sobriety test has the legal right to decide if they want to take the test or not. If an individual refuses to take the test, the officer must comply with their choice and continue the DUI investigation without any field sobriety tests. That individual will not incur any consequence because he or she exercised their right to refuse the voluntary tests.
So why do so many people end up taking the DUI field sobriety tests? The number one reason is that they are uninformed about the “voluntary” aspect. Officers are legally required to tell every individual that the field sobriety test are voluntary, however, many officers fail to use the word voluntary. Instead, they use words and phrases that make the individual feel obligated to take the field tests, such as, “next you will perform the DUI field sobriety tests,” or “Let’s begin the field sobriety tests.” And thus many people have taken the field sobriety tests without having knowledge that the tests were voluntary.
Additional reasons people take the DUI field sobriety tests include; being scared and nervous; wanting to cooperate with the officer; and lastly being heavily intoxicated which often hinders good decision-making.
Here at David O Defense, we always recommend the refusal of the DUI field sobriety tests. The tests are difficult and set up in a manner in which most people will fail. Later the failed test results may be used against an individual when prosecuting them for the DUI.
It’s unfair but true you can be charged with a DUI in Seattle, in fact, everywhere in Washington State while having a DUI breath test result under the legal limit of .08. RCW 46.61.502 defines a driver as being guilty of DUI if the person drives a vehicle within this state “while under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor..” Affected by intoxicating liquor?! What does this mean?
It means the prosecutor can still charge you with a DUI. Every person reacts differently to alcohol and less amounts may “affect” a person’s ability to drive even while having a test result under the DUI limits. A person charged with a DUI with a breath test under the legal limit will be facing the same penalties of a person with a breath test ranging from .08 to .15 with all other factors being similar. As a result this type of case should be taken as seriously as a DUI case with a breath test above the legal limit.
Unless something extraordinary happened I don’t believe any driver should be charged with a DUI if that person blew under the legal limit. Especially when the state puts on TV ads about DUI/drunk driving and posts signs all over the road showing the legal limit of .08. It’s misleading.
I have represented several people charged with a DUI while blowing under the legal limit. Fortunately for those clients we were able to resolve all those cases very well.