The Washington Supreme Court recently held in Washington v. Mecham that the Fourth Amendment does not authorize a defendant to refuse a roadside sobriety test. In a divided opinion, the state high court held that a police officer may stop any motorist he believes to be inebriated and ask him to perform roadside tests such as standing on one leg, the “stop and turn,” and the horizontal gaze nystagmus, which tests eye movement. If the driver refuses, the district attorney is permitted to tell the jury that his refusal is proof of his guilt.
Defendant Mark Mecham would not take the allegedly “voluntary” field sobriety tests after being pulled over in Bellevue, Washington in May 2011. The officer did not think Mecham was driving while intoxicated. Instead, he stopped Mecham because he was driving with an outstanding warrant, which the officer learned after looking up his license plate number. After stopping the defendant, however, Officer Campbell observed signs of Mecham’s inebriation and found a beer can in the vehicle. Officer Campbell then took Mecham to the police station, and Mecham refused a breath test.