Each state addresses operating under the influence differently, so it can be difficult to know what exactly your state's guidelines are for field sobriety tests. It leaves questions lingering about test refusals, test expectations and consequences of failing a test.
Refusal of a field test
In Connecticut, drivers follow the implied consent law, which means any person who operates a motor vehicle is presumed to have given their consent to a test to determine blood alcohol concentration. In simple terms, it says all drivers are required to take a BAC and can be arrested if they refuse.
Before the test, an officer should inform the driver:
- Their constitutional rights
- Their right to call an attorney
- Failure of the test or refusal of the test can lead to a license suspension
- A refusal of a BAC test can also be used in court
If the driver decides to refuse the test, the officer will record it in their notes and follow procedures for a failing BAC test. The record eventually makes its way to the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles for further processing.
The types of field tests
There are multiple tests a police officer could use to test sobriety in Connecticut. First, the officer uses a test to determine if there is any alcohol in the system via a breath test, urine test or blood test. Most commonly, an officer will use a breath test to test BAC. The driver fails the test if you have a .08 percent or higher.
Once the BAC is tested, they can use other field tests to prove further inability to drive. This is where you might do the Horizontal Gaze test or the Walk and Turn test.
The Walk and Turn require the driver to walk a straight line. They walk at least nine steps from heel to toe, turn around and walk back to the starting point. It helps determine the current balance and stability of the driver. It is often an indicator of drinking if they cannot stay balanced.
The Horizontal Gaze is when an officer holds up a pen or finger and has the follower track the object from the center of the vision to the edges. As the driver becomes more intoxicated, they lose focus closer to the center of the face. Neither of these tests proves an OUI, but they help support other evidence.
Penalties for failing a test
Whether a driver refuses or fails a BAC test, there are specific penalties to follow. In almost every circumstance, a license suspension from the DMV follows 30 days after the arrest date. It's typically based on the arrest information and is separate from penalties or requirements imposed by the court. There will be a notice of suspension before a court hearing.
After all alcohol-related suspensions, an ignition interlock device installation is required for a specific period - depending on any prior convictions. For the first offense and over 21 years old, the driver is required to have the IID for six months. If you refused the test, the IID is required for one year.
The court could also impose other consequences for underage drivers who drink or reoccurring offenders, but it is based on personal circumstances at that point.
It helps you to know your state's guidelines for sobriety tests and OUIs in case you or a loved one is facing a test in the future. Be aware you have rights and refusal of the test could have long-term effects on your record.