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Do You Have a Right to Refuse Field Sobriety Tests in Minnesota?

Minnesota, like every state, takes driving under the influence very seriously. However, the state has also mandated that law enforcement’s hunt for drunk drivers not impede the rights of its citizens. As such, drunk driving checkpoints were made illegal and police officers have a series of strict rules to follow when apprehending those that they suspect to be driving under the influence.

However, while you won’t get caught in the web of drunk driving checkpoints, police will still pull you over for a variety of reasons. When it comes to being pulled over for drunk driving, police officers will need to have reasonable suspicion that you have committed an infraction rather than just pulling you over for no reason at all. If this is true, they may ask you to partake in field sobriety tests, the results of which will determine whether they arrest your or let you go. When this happens, do you have the right to refuse them?

Taking Field Sobriety Tests

When it comes to field sobriety tests, there are four different kinds that an officer will give. These tests include:

  • The One Leg Stand – The officer will ask you stand on one leg with perfect balance for 30 seconds.
  • The Walk and Turn – You will be asked to walk a straight line, heel-to-toe style, and turn without swaying or falling over.
  • The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus – The officer will ask you to follow their hand, looking for involuntary jerking of the eye that comes with inebriation.
  • The Portable Breath Test – Your standard, though less reliable, portable breathalyzer test

Some of these tests have been criticized in recent years as being designed to fail. This is often why officers will rely more on the portable breath test rather than other field sobriety tests. Often even if you do well on another field test, the officer will still likely request a breath test before releasing you.

Can You Refuse Field Sobriety Tests?

There is much confusion on whether you can refuse field sobriety tests in Minnesota, but the answer is yes, you can. Field sobriety tests are often stacked against us because we have never done them before. Just because you have bad balance doesn’t mean you are drunk, after all. This makes you more likely to fail, and typically you have little to gain from them. In most cases, even if you do well on one field sobriety test, they will still make you perform a breath test. Furthermore, if you are over the limit, failing these tests only makes your DWI case that much harder to win.

However, it you refuse the field sobriety tests, it is still within an officer’s right to arrest you. Now this is where people often get confused. While you can refuse a field sobriety test on the road, it is a crime to refuse a blood, urine, or breath test done at the police station or hospital. If it turns out you were intoxicated, but below the legal limit, you may be free to go. If you suspect you are above the legal limit, not taking the field sobriety test and getting arrested may give you time to sober up as well, helping your case.

Have you been arrested for a DWI in Minnesota after failing a field sobriety test? While the results of these tests can hurt your case, depending on the test given, the results can often be hotly contested. If you are looking at a DWI charge, contact us today. Let the attorneys at Segal Defense go over the unique facts of your DWI case in order craft a specialized defense and get you the best possible results in court.


The information presented in this article is not considered legal advice. Please contact our law office to speak to an attorney about your case.
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