It is never advisable to drive a vehicle after you have consumed alcohol or other intoxicating substances. The easy availability of transportation through ride aps like Uber and Lyft can help avoid finding yourself behind the wheel of a vehicle if you have had too much to drink or if you are otherwise not in a condition to drive. There are times, however, many people do not feel impaired, decide to drive, and find themselves being pulled over by law enforcement for a simple traffic violation.

If you have been pulled over because an officer believes you may be operating while intoxicated, or drunk driving, you may be asked to perform a series of standardized field sobriety tests. These tests allow an officer to factor in a person’s balance or attention level if they are suspicious that a driver is under the influence. Officers need to determine probable cause before they arrest someone in these situations.

There are several field sobriety tests you may be asked to perform. Typically an officer will ask a person to successfully perform multiple tests. This is to check for consistent results, as the tests are more reliable if the results are the same. Some of the most common tests include:

  1. Vertical or Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: During this test, an officer will ask you to look either up and down or side to side while holding a penlight for a few seconds. Often times intoxication either by drug or alcohol will cause the eyes to twitch.
  2. Walk and Turn: Here, the officer may instruct you to walk in a straight line in a heel-to-toe manner and when instructed to turn and walk back in the opposite direction. The officers are testing balance and will be looking for you to follow directions while performing the task successfully.
  3. One Leg Stand: Again, this test checks your balance while having you follow instructions. You will be expected to stand with one foot raised about six inches off the ground. The officer may also ask you to count backward during this process.

Performance on these standardized field sobriety tests may dictate whether the officer has probable cause to believe you operated a vehicle while intoxicated. Officers are looking for “clues” in these tests to help determine whether you may be intoxicated. Certain other tests known as pre-exit tests (like reciting the alphabet C-N or counting backward from 102-89) may also be employed by the officer. These too are used to help evaluate whether you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

If the officer has developed probable cause to believe you operated a vehicle while intoxicated, the officer is obligated to read you Indiana’s implied consent law. Under Indiana law, just by driving a vehicle you have already impliedly consented to take a chemical test. However, the officer will still read you a statement asking whether you are willing to comply with a chemical test. The statement may sound similar to the following:

“I have probable cause to believe you have operated a vehicle while intoxicated. I must now offer you the opportunity to submit to a chemical test and inform you that your refusal to submit to a chemical test will result in the suspension of your driving privileges for one year. If this is your second offense for operating a vehicle while intoxicated a refusal to submit to a chemical test will result in the suspension of your driving privileges for two years. Will you now take the chemical test?”

You may refuse the chemical test, however, your license may be suspended for one, or two years depending upon your circumstances. This is true even if you are not impaired or intoxicated!

Another thing to consider is what constitutes a refusal. In some cases it is very simple, if you respond no to the above statement, you have refused to submit to a chemical test. However, some cases are fact sensitive and must be analyzed on a case by case basis. For example, if you responded to the officer that you would agree to submit to a chemical test but your behavior changes to be combative or you attempt not to blow into the breathalyzer your lack of cooperation may constitute a refusal to take a certified chemical test.

After a refusal, your license is suspended, and you are precluded from the ability to petition for specialized driving privileges. While it is your choice to determine if you should refuse or submit to a chemical test, you should be aware of the consequences that may impact the outcome of your case. If you are arrested or charged with Operating While Intoxicated, drunk driving, or facing a refusal suspension, contact Russell Cate at Cate Terry & Gookins LLC. Call us at 317-564-0016.