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Why you should refuse the standardized field sobriety tests

If you are arrested in Illinois for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and are not dead, unconscious or seriously injured, the officer will ask you to perform what are known as Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST). Following these tests, the officer will ask you to take a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT).

The results of the PBT are not “official” and cannot be used against you to prove your intoxication. However, those results, along with the SFST, will provide the police with the grounds to arrest you for DUI. Following the arrest, the officer will ask you to take a different type of breath test, the results of which can have specific criminal and driver’s license consequences.

The PBT is administered at the arrest scene by use of a hand held device that gives an estimate of your blood alcohol level, or BAL. 625 ILCS 5/11-501.5 Normally the official breath test is given at the police station with a desktop device, although there are a few on-sight devices that are official, as they are properly certified as being accurate. However, those can only be administered by a qualified technician and only after you have been placed under arrest for DUI, whereas the PBT is given prior to your arrest.

Another difference between the PBT and the official test is that, as is the case with the SFST, there is no penalty to the driver for refusing to take the SFST or the PBT. On the other hand, if you take the PBT but refuse the official test, you will be written down as a refusal.


That’s important because the driver’s license penalties for a refusal are worse than they are if you take the official test. Instead of being suspended for six months for taking the test, you will be suspended for twelve months if you are a first offender. If you are not a first offender, your suspension will be twelve months if you test and three years if you refuse. 625 ILCS 6/208.1
The SFST consists of three parts, The horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk and turn, and one-leg stand. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test checks the involuntary jerking of the eye, which can be enhanced by alcohol. The walk-and-turn and one-leg stand tests require you to first listen to instructions and then perform the tasks.

The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is 77 percent accurate. The walk-and-turn test is accurate 68 percent of the time and the one-leg stand 65 percent. Given that you must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, it would seem that these tests really prove nothing. Likewise, the PBT is inaccurate yet can be used as a reason to arrest you.

The problem is that juries are easily impressed by what sounds scientific but in reality is “junk science” that is allowed in the courtroom due to one thing, DUI politics. Since there is no penalty for refusing to take any of these tests and since the outcome is highly questionable, you should refuse to take all of them, in a polite manner.

Related posts:

Summary of requirements for admission of DUI breath tests in Illinois April 12, 2013, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg
Illinois Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and standardized field sobriety tests February 11, 2010, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg

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