What Happens If I Refuse a Field Sobriety Test in Washington?

When you get pulled over by the cops for drinking and driving, you may have questions regarding what happens if you refuse a field sobriety test. If you don’t consent to a field sobriety test in Washington, you may face several legal consequences. For example, the government may take away your license for at least one year and use the evidence of your refusal in a criminal trial against you. However, many of these sobriety tests are unreliable. As such, you or your attorney can take legal steps to challenge the evidence the government uses against you. 

At Veitch Ault Defense, our Washington DUI attorney appreciates the stakes when someone faces a DUI. Because of our tireless efforts, the results of dozens of improperly administered sobriety and breathalyzers were thrown out, helping to keep many people out of jail. While we can’t guarantee a particular result in your case, we have the tools and resources to fight for a favorable outcome. 

Background Information on DUI Charges and Sobriety Tests

Before an officer can arrest you, they need to have reasonable grounds to believe you committed a crime. In the context of a DUI charge, this typically means they should have enough evidence to support probable cause that you were driving while intoxicated. The officer may use surrounding circumstances, such as how you were driving the car or the smell of alcohol on your breath, to make this initial determination. 

Likewise, they may use tools to measure your blood alcohol concentration (or BAC) to see if it’s over the legal limit. Under Washington law, the legal limit for adults is .08 percent or higher for alcohol and 5.00 or higher for THC. However, the government can charge you for a crime even if you are below this limit. 

For example, let’s say you drank alcohol and smoked marijuana, and the cops believe it affected your driving. The cops may pull you over and arrest you for this, regardless of the individual levels of each substance in your system. 

The cops can determine whether you are under the influence and unfit to drive in a couple of ways. They may conduct a field sobriety test, which may include asking you to perform cognitive tasks (like saying the alphabet backward) and blowing into a breathalyzer. If they take you back to the station, they may also take a blood, urine, or other chemical test. 

What Happens if I Refuse a Field Sobriety Test?

In most situations, you are free to refuse the government’s access to your body, such as your breath or blood. Unfortunately, doing so after getting pulled over for a DUI may not bode well for you. 

Under Washington Law, anyone who drives a car gives implied consent for the government to test their breath for alcohol or drugs that may prevent someone from operating a vehicle safely. So, by being in the driver’s seat of an automobile, you may be telling the government that you agree to comply with the breath tests it sees as appropriate within this scope. 

For the police to exercise this authority, they need to have a minimum level of reasonable suspicion or grounds to believe you were intoxicated. If you refuse a field sobriety test that the government had the authority to administer—like one to measure substances in your breath—you may face legal consequences. 

What Are the Consequences of Refusing a Field Sobriety Test in Washington?

Your refusal to consent to a field sobriety test (including a breathalyzer) may result in several consequences. For example, the government may take away your license or driving permit for at least one year. Likewise, the prosecutor may use your refusal against you in court in a criminal trial. If this happens, this evidence may weigh in favor of the judge or jury finding you guilty. 

Are Field Sobriety Tests Mandatory?

Field sobriety tests aren’t mandatory, but it’s important to think carefully before opting out of these. If you refuse a field sobriety test, the government may take away your license for at least one year. This applies if the officer had other reasons to believe you were intoxicated. For example, they might have evidence that you were swerving, slurring your words, or that your breath smelled of alcohol. 

What’s more, the government may use your choice to refuse the test as evidence against you in a criminal trial. If the police forced you to take a sobriety test and you think they violated your rights, consider partnering with a King County DUI attorney

How Can You Make Legal Challenges Against the Sobriety Test’s Accuracy?

Washington law has special rules about what kinds of tests the government can use to test your breath, blood, and urine—and when. For each method, the police and toxicologists must follow a strict procedure. This includes using a predictable protocol for administering, reading, and storing the results and the specimen.

Frequently, the results of field sobriety tests are unscientific and unreliable. A big reason for this is they require the officer to use their impression of how drunk you are by viewing your behavior. For example, the officer may ask you to stand on one leg and put your finger on your nose. Based on the results of these highly subjective observations, the police officer may use this to ask you to take other tests, such as a breathalyzer. There are a couple of different ways you can challenge the accuracy of a field sobriety test. For example, you can use video evidence to show you weren’t slurring your words or unable to walk straight. Likewise, you can point to flaws in how the police administered or stored the test to question. 

Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in Washington?

Routine sobriety checkpoints (also called DUI checkpoints) are illegal in the State of Washington. Even so, police may illegally engage in this practice and abuse your rights. If you are in this situation and the police pull you over, your best option may be to comply with their reasonable requests. Agreeing to a breathalyzer may be part of this. If police misconduct (such as overreach) was involved, you or your attorney may use this as a basis to challenge the charges. 

Veitch Ault Defense: Proud DUI Attorneys Serving Washington State

Getting a DUI can have enormous consequences on your ability to support your family, keep your job, and engage in other essential aspects of daily life. Having a dedicated and battle-tested advocate in your corner can help you increase your chance of successfully defending yourself against these charges. 

At Veitch Ault Defense, we are fierce defenders of the rights of the accused. All too often, we have seen police fail to follow protocols, with the end result that an innocent citizen gets arrested. For over 20 years, Robert Ault has dedicated his skills to defending those whose rights have been violated. Contact us today by calling 425-549-9547 to schedule a free consultation with a trusted DUI attorney on our team. 


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For a free consultation to discuss your pending case or other legal matters, please call us any time at 425-452-1600 or complete our online contact form. Our attorneys will explain the entire process surrounding your charge and remove the fear and uncertainty regarding your arrest. Our team should be your first call if you need a top-rated, dedicated, and responsive DUI/DWI or criminal defense attorney. If success in your legal matters is your only option, we hope that you will place your trust in top-rated Washington State DUI attorney Robert Ault.  

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