Field sobriety tests are on-the-spot tests of driver’s responsiveness and coordination administered by police officers who suspect that you are intoxicated, or at the very least driving after having had a drink or two.
In Alaska, you do not have to agree to a field sobriety test. Most DUI attorneys would strongly recommend that you do not agree to do so as the results can be used as evidence against you if you are charged with DUI.
Note that a refusal of a field sobriety test cannot be used against you and does not constitute a separate offense. This makes it different from refusing to submit to a breath test for alcohol. As in many other states, Alaska makes it a condition of having a driver license that you agree to submit to a blood alcohol test if asked. If you do refuse, your license will be suspended immediately for 90 days. You could be fined up to $1,500 and may be jailed for a minimum of 3 days. This will happen irrespective of whether you are later charged with a DUI offense.
Why you should refuse to agree to a field sobriety test
Field sobriety test are an unreliable method of testing your level of intoxication. There are a number of different field sobriety tests in use, but the most common ones used in Alaska are the one-leg stand test, the walk and turn test and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, all of which are flawed.
One of the objections to the use of these tests is that they are not standardized. The choice of test is left to an individual police officer. The measurement of a person’s response to a test is also left to an individual police officer. Not every police officer is equally competent in administering and measuring the results of these tests and ultimately the interpretation of results is dependent on subjective judgment.
In addition, the test may be carried out in the dark, by the side of a busy highway. Even athletic and usually unfazed citizens may fail any one of these tests in these conditions. It doesn’t take too much imagination to appreciate why an unhealthier than average individual, an elderly individual, or a disabled person may not be able to stand on one leg for very long or walk in a straight line without wobbling. Footwear can introduce another unreliable ingredient in field sobriety testing, as can anxiousness or fear on the part of the person being tested.
Basically, field sobriety tests are designed to fail drivers easily and should be politely declined.
Other tests of your level of intoxication
There are other tests of someone’s level of intoxication, none of which are perfect. Police officers may use visual, audio and other clues to determine whether they think you have been drinking. These may include the smell of your breath, how you respond verbally to questions, the appearance of your pupils and other criteria that may or may not at the time have any relevance to the amount of alcohol you have drunk.
Blood alcohol testing is the most reliable, although not completely reliable, testing method. Most tests are breath tests taken at a police station. Their degree of reliability can be compromised by faulty equipment, lack of training or competence on the part of those doing the testing, other substances consumed by the driver that may imitate alcohol content and the time difference between the particular point at which the driver was driving and the time of the test.
Blood alcohol tests made by an analysis of blood samples tend to be more accurate than breath tests, but may be refused if the driver has a reason for refusing the test because of a health reason.
There is no absolutely reliable way of determining whether someone should be arrested and charged with DUI in Alaska, but some evidence used by prosecutors to press for a DUI conviction is more unreliable than others, especially the results of field sobriety tests.
The unreliability of alcohol testing is one of the main ways that a credible defense against a DUI conviction can be constructed by your Anchorage DUI attorney;
Contact the Law Offices of Dattan Scott Dattan if arrested for DUI in Anchorage at 907-276-8008.