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You have been pulled over by a police officer. You provide your license, registration and insurance when asked. The police officer asks if you’ve been drinking. You admit to having “a few beers” or some such consumption. You want to cooperate with the police officer in the hope you will be sent on your way with a ticket. Then, the police officer asks you to step out of the car; she then tells you she wants you to perform field sobriety tests. Can you refuse?

Let’s remember: By performing field sobriety tests, you are giving the government evidence to use against you in its prosecution of you for DUI!

Now, back to the question: Can you refuse to perform field sobriety tests in Idaho? The short answer is: “Yes, but….” In 2008, the Idaho Court of Appeals decided State v. Buell in which it stated: “an individual who has been instructed by a police officer to perform field sobriety tests has the power to prevent the tests by refusing to cooperate, but that power does not equate to a constitutional right to refuse.” So, you can refuse, but there is no constitutional right to do so.

What does that mean to you?

  • If you are asked to get out of the car by the police, you should comply. If you do not, you could be charged with “resisting and obstructing.”
  • The fact you refused to perform the field sobriety tests is admissible and the jury can hear about it.
  • If you simply say you don’t want to perform them and wind up doing them, you won’t be able to challenge the admissibility of the results at trial.
  • If you really don’t want to do the tests, YOU DON’T HAVE TO. Stick to your guns if you don’t want to give the government evidence against you.

You should always be polite to the police officer. He is simply doing his job. Being polite, however, does not mean you have to tell the officer you’ve been drinking or how much you have had. You do not need to do the field sobriety tests – no matter how demanding the police officer is.

The next question is – do you have to submit to an evidentiary test for blood alcohol concentration? In other words, do you have to “blow” or consent to a blood draw? Stay tuned for a future post.