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

If you are pulled over on suspicion of intoxicated driving in Minnesota, the responding police officer may ask you to perform a field sobriety test (FST). These tests come in a number of different forms, including: 

  • The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN); 
  • The walk-and-turn; 
  • The one-legged-stand; and 
  • A preliminary handheld breath test. 

While the results of a field sobriety test could be used to support an arrest and criminal DWI charges, there is overwhelming evidence that these tests are subjective, unreliable, and often inaccurate. Here, our Mankato, MN DWI defense attorneys explain the most important things that you need to know about the state’s rules and regulations regarding field sobriety tests. 

You are Not Required to Take Field Sobriety Tests in Minnesota

The most important thing that you need to know about field sobriety tests in Minnesota is that drivers have no legal obligation to take them. You are well within your rights to decline to take a pre-arrest FST. Additionally, in accordance with Minnesota law, police officers cannot ask a driver to perform a field sobriety test unless there is probable cause to believe that the driver is operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or another controlled substance. Minnesota police officers cannot request an FST without reasonable suspicion of a DWI.  

Field Sobriety Tests are Notoriously Unreliable

The problem with field sobriety testing is that it is simply not scientifically rigorous. Several studies have found that all types of FSTs have high rates of error. For example, research published in the  Journal of Forensic Sciences concluded that field sobriety testing is inaccurate and unreliable when the subject in question has a blood alcohol level near or below the legal limit. In other words, there is an unacceptably high risk of false positives. Generally, FSTs have only been shown to produce somewhat accurate results when subjects are highly intoxicated. Even then, these are still subjective tests. 

Refusing an FST is Not a Shield Against Arrest

While you cannot be charged with a crime because you refused to submit to a field sobriety test, it is important to remember that declining an FST is not a shield against arrest. A Minnesota law enforcement officer may still determine that they have sufficient evidence to make a DWI arrest. That being said, they cannot use the refusal of a field sobriety test as part of that evidence. You have the right to decline to take an FST without it being used against you to support an arrest or a criminal charge. 

Get Help from a Mankato DWI Defense Lawyer Today

At Kohlmeyer Hagen Law Office Chtd., our Minnesota criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience representing clients charged with intoxicated driving. If you were arrested after refusing a field sobriety test, we are here to help. To set up a fully confidential consultation, please contact our law firm at 507-625-5000. From our law office in Mankato, we serve communities throughout Southern Minnesota, including in Blue Earth County, Nicollet County, and Le Sueur County.

 

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