Written by attorney Max A. Keller

Field Sobriety Testing in Minnesota

If a police officer has reason to believe that you are driving while intoxicated, he or she will require that you submit to field sobriety tests. These tests are to determine whether or not the officer’s suspicions were correct. If they are, then you will find that you are arrested for a DWI offense and taken to jail. If you refuse a field sobriety test, you will still be arrested and will later have to submit to breath, blood, or urine tests to determine if you are intoxicated.

If you are charged with DWI or you refuse to take field sobriety tests, you do need to speak with a qualified field sobriety test attorney to help you in your case and to also help you in making decisions that are best for you.

Types of Field Sobriety Tests (FST’s)

There are several types of field sobriety tests that an officer will perform to see if you are, in fact, intoxicated. It is important to remember that under Minnesota law, you are NOT required to do any of these tests. The common FST’s tests include:

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test – Nystagmus means jerking of the eyeball when it follows an object. The officer will claim to be able to observe the angle at which your eye begins to jerk. If this “nystagmus" occurs before 45 degrees, the blood alcohol concentration is above .05. The driver is supposed to keep the head still, staring straight ahead. The officer may use his/her finger or a pencil for the subject to follow with their eyes without moving the head. The finger or pencil must be 12 to 15 inches away from the subject.

Walk and Turn Test – The driver must do movements while also following instructions given by the officer. This is a “divided attention" task. Intoxicated individuals have a hard time listening to instructions and performing the tasks at the same time. The test is supposed to be performed on a hard, dry surface so that the subject can complete heel-to-toe steps. If an individual exhibits 2 or more behaviors or “clues" during this test that are indicative of alcohol consumption, the police will claim that the driver’s alcohol concentration is above .08.

One Leg Stand Test – There are two stages to this test. The first is the instructions given by the officer. The officer will usually also demonstrate the instructions. For instance, the officer will demonstrate that the starting position is standing with heels together and arms down to the sides. The subject will also be told to not start the test until told to do so. In the second stage, the officer instructs the subject to stand on one leg while holding the other foot out front around 6 inches off of the ground. The subject is allowed to stand on the leg of his choice. The driver must do this for 30 seconds. If the subject struggles, then the police will testify that it is reasonable to believe that the driver’s alcohol content is over .08.

Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) or Preliminary Screening Test: The police may ask a driver to blow into the Preliminary Breath Test, a small hand-held box held by the Officer. It is important to know that you are NOT required to blow into the Preliminary Breath Test. If you refuse, the Officer cannot arrest you merely for refusing to take the Preliminary Breath Test, but may threaten that. The Officer will arrest you if he thinks that there is probable cause to believe that you are under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, with or without a Preliminary Breath Test result. If you are sure that you are over the limit, you should REFUSE The Preliminary Breath Test.

You should, however, TAKE the Preliminary Breath Test if you think you may blow below a .08. An Officer of course, may still arrest you for DWI EVEN IF you blow below .08 on the Preliminary Breath Test, depending on many other factors including your driving conduct, if any.

Other tests such as breath, blood, or urine tests at the police station, jail or hospital, may also be administered. A breath test (PBT) may be conducted on site, but may also be conducted after arrest. A blood or urine test will be conducted after the subject has been arrested to determine the exact alcohol level.

Arrested? We’re Available 24 / 7

Only a professional and highly skilled DWI defense lawyer can make sure your case is properly addressed and handled efficiently. Skilled, Experienced DWI attorneys will thoroughly investigate the circumstances of your arrest, the arresting officer, interview any important eye witnesses, handle all court appearances and documents, and guide you through the criminal justice system to your freedom and peace of mind. If you have questions regarding your DWI charges, potential penalties and risks, or strategies for defending your rights, call an experienced law office law firm NOW. You have rights – we protect them.

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