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Can Indiana police officers demand field sobriety testing?

On Behalf of | May 14, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Police officers who suspect someone of impairment at the wheel can make numerous demands during a traffic stop. They can ask personal questions and may try to corroborate their suspicions of chemical impairment. Most drivers facing police suspicion do their best to cooperate during a traffic stop. They believe that by following a police officer’s instructions and answering their questions, they can demonstrate that they are law-abiding citizens.

Unfortunately, a cooperative attitude can put someone at a significant disadvantage during a drunk driving traffic stop. Police officers can convince people to engage in behavior that might increase their chances of a criminal conviction. For example, an officer might ask someone to perform a field sobriety test.

Are there consequences for refusing a request to perform standardized field sobriety tests?

Indiana does have an implied consent law

One of the reasons that drivers believe they have to comply with police requests during a traffic stop is the implied consent statute. They may be vaguely aware of a rule that requires them to submit to testing for impairment in certain situations.

However, the Indiana implied consent law is very specific. Drivers have already given their implied consent to chemical testing when an officer has the probable cause necessary to arrest someone for drunk driving. If there is already reason to suspect impairment, the refusal to submit to a breath test could lead to secondary penalties.

The implied consent law does not apply to pre-arrest testing or to field sobriety testing. Drivers have the option of declining field sobriety tests. Particularly in scenarios where a motorist is aware of health issues that could affect their performance on the test, they may have every reason to refuse to exit their vehicle and perform physical tasks for an officer.

While refusing those tests might frustrate a police officer, doing so does not necessarily give an officer grounds to arrest someone. Additionally, the refusal to submit to field sobriety tests should not lead to any additional penalties the way that a refusal to perform a breath test after arrest might.

Refusing to perform field sobriety tests could potentially protect someone from an unnecessary drunk driving arrest. Drivers who understand their rights when interacting with police officers can reduce the likelihood of unintentionally implicating themselves during a traffic stop.

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