Sobriety Tests. Do I have to do them?
The simple answer is no. Everyone's situation is different, but you are not breaking the law if you refuse to perform a sobriety test. However, a preliminary breath test (PBT) is considered a sobriety test, and refusing to submit to a PBT can result in a civil infraction.
Walk and Turn TestThis is a standardized field sobriety test. This test consists of having the driver remain in a starting position, with one foot in front of the other, touching heal-to-toe. The driver is instructed to remain in this starting position, with their arms remaining down the side of their body, while the officer gives the remaining instructions. If the driver moves from the starting position, their feet, their arms, or they are swaying from side to side, the officer will note that in their report. The instructions continue to include having the driver walk 9 heel-to-toe steps on an imaginary straight line, counting each step out loud, while keeping their arms to their sides. The officer will instruct the driver to stop on their ninth step, take a series of small steps, keeping the front foot in place, and walking 9 heel-to-toe steps back to where they started. The officer usually will demonstrate this test. Walking off the imaginary line, the officer will note it. Raising your arms from your sides, the officer will note it. Walking the incorrect number of steps, the officer will note it. Not counting your steps out loud, the officer will note it. Stopping during the test, the officer will note it. Not doing the pivot and turn correctly to take the second series of 9 steps, the officer will note it. There are a lot of things the officer is evaluating during this test. The test is to see if you can follow direction, but also checks your sobriety by looking at you balance. The officers usually ask the driver if there are any physical limitations that would prohibit them from performing the test. This is important, because a lot of people have pre-existing injuries that the officer should be aware of. Bad hip, back injury, etc. They also sometimes ask if you want to take your shoes off. This is not an easy task for a woman wearing high heels to touch heel-to-toe on each step. But also becomes difficult in Michigan during February when it's cold, the ground is covered in snow and ice, and other cars are zipping by.
One-leg Stand TestThis is a standardized field sobriety test. The officer starts this test by giving verbal instructions, and directing the driver to put their feet together. They instruct the driver to keep their arms to their sides, and ask the driver to remain in that position until they are told to move or start the test. The officer then, usually during the instructions, tells the driver to elevate either foot approximately 6-12 inches above the ground, keeping their leg with the elevated foot straight, and keeping their arms to their sides. The office then instructs the driver to count out loud, i.e., "one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one thousand," and so on, until they reach 30. They usually instruct the driver that if they put their foot down for whatever reason before reaching 30, the continue the test and counting where they last left off at. The officer is looking for the driver not staying in the instructed starting position, elevated arms, swaying back and forth, not keeping their foot above the ground, touching their foot on the ground before 30 seconds, not counting correctly or at all, and bouncing up and down during the test. The officers usually ask the driver if there are any physical limitations that would prohibit them from performing the test.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)This is a standardized field sobriety test. This test is probably one of the most difficult tests for a police officer to administer, and not all police officers are properly trained to administer this test. The test is where the police officer asks you to follow the tip of their finger or the tip of their ink-pen with your eyes, without moving your head from side to side. The officer is looking for equal tracking with the eyes, and they are looking for involuntary jerking of the eyes at maximum deviation and prior to onset of 45 degrees in both eyes. They are also looking at the driver's pupils, to determine how dilated they are, to see if there is evidence of drugs. The involuntary jerking of the eyes can indicate presence of alcohol. The closer the finger or ink-pen is to the tip of your nose, and the eyes are jerking, indicates a higher level of alcohol. The officer makes several passes back and forth, they should have their ink-pen or finger a certain distance from your face, and they should perform the test in a safe location with their overhead lights and spot light not shining in your face. Some people have natural nystagmus with their vision. The officer may also ask the driver if they wear contact lenses or prescription glasses.
Other Field Sobriety TestsSome police officers ask someone they suspect is under the influence of alcohol or drugs to recite the English alphabet from A-Z, without humming, rhyming or singing it. Some officers try to make this test more difficult, and have the person start at a different letter and stop prior to Z. Some officer also ask the person to count backwards. The officer can pick whatever number they want. Some pick numbers that may confuse people, such as starting at 77 and count backwards to 67. The officers are looking for missed numbers or letters, skipping numbers or letters, not stopping where they are told to stop either counting or reciting the alphabet, or simply when the person is not able to complete the test. Not too many people use the finger-touch test "finger dexterity". But this is when the officer asks you to touch the tip of your fingers to the tip of your thumb while counting. There are likely other tests some officers use, however, these are the most common ones. Usually the last test that is offered is a preliminary breath test (PBT), which is a civil infraction if you refuse to take the test. This PBT does not test for drugs, but gives the police officer a blood alcohol content (BAC) reading. In Michigan, the drunk driving laws are complex. But if you blow at .08 BAC or above, you may be arrested for OWI. There are variations of the law where .02 BAC or above is illegal, .04 BAC or above is illegal, and of course, when the officer suspects that the driver is under the influence of drugs.