Refusing Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) in Columbus & Ohio
COLUMBUS & OHIO DUI LAW
Most people debate the merits of refusing a breath test or other chemical test after being arrested for OVI or DUI in the city of Columbus or the state of Ohio. That is certainly a valid debate. But too often, the “refusal” debate overshadows an equally important (perhaps more important) question—whether to refuse Field Sobriety Test.
Many people do not realize that there is no requirement to take FSTs. That means unlike chemical BAC tests, there is no “automatic” consequence for refusing. In other words, there is no reason ever to submit to Field Sobriety Tests if there is any doubt at all about passing.
The police do not tell people stopped on the side of the road that they do not have to take FSTs. In fact, police often act as if it is just a routine part of the stop, as if it is required. But it is not. And that is perhaps the most important thing anyone can know and understand.
In both Columbus and Ohio, Field Sobriety Tests are not designed to establish that someone is sober. These tests are designed to prove the opposite. It works. Few people can complete FSTs without mistake, irrespective of the amount of alcohol they have consumed. To be sure, alcohol makes it harder. But it’s not that everyone who is sober can pass.
Start with the premise that these are tests. Unlike most tests, however, the administrator (police) do not tell drivers how they are being graded. Imagine sitting in high school and the teacher springs a test on the class. There is no notice of the subject of the test, how it is graded, or what happens upon failure. That scenario hardly seems fair. But it happens all the time with FSTs. Police stop a driver and immediately administer tests. This typically results in handcuffs, a cruiser ride to the police station, and the awful choice whether to take a BAC.
But for a quick answer, there is no requirement that a driver take FSTs, and there will be no mandatory license suspension for a refusal.
This all begs the obvious question—why refuse FSTs?
To answer this question, we have to look at the big picture. FSTs provide law enforcement with information used to arrest suspects and later describe why. It’s not so simple when someone refuses. FSTs often provide crucial evidence used against a driver to justify an arrest and later conviction for DUI. Conversely, a case becomes very “lean” without FSTs. Police do not have a baseline to describe why they think someone was impaired.
In short, it’s better to have less evidence than more. And in most cases, attorneys would rather defend a case without FSTs, even if there is a breath test.
There are always those who think they are going to convince the police that they are “sober.” They are going to nail the tests, prove the police wrong, and cruise home with the radio blaring.
This may happen, but not often. Here’s the thing. If a driver is impaired at all, the police are going to arrest them without or without FSTs. It’s really about defending the case later and providing as little incriminating evidence as possible.
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