At a DWI traffic stop in Minnesota, the police officer typically asks you to step out of your vehicle and perform a set of field sobriety tests. The three standardized field sobriety tests or FSTs commonly performed roadside are the One Leg Stand, the HGN or Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, and the Walk and Turn. The portable or preliminary breath test, also known as PBT, is a handheld breath test also usually performed roadside or in the squad car.
If a law enforcement officer pulls you over, does the law require you to perform these field sobriety tests?
It may come as a surprise to many, but the answer is no. If there is even the slightest chance that you may actually be at or over the legal limit, then you will have absolutely nothing to gain by performing the FSTs.
In the state of Minnesota, law enforcement officials must first have a reasonable and articulable suspicion that you are actually driving while impaired or with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 before they can ask you to step out of the car and take the field sobriety tests. Remember that it is not necessarily illegal to drink and drive, as it only becomes illegal when you are impaired or are driving while over the legal limit.
Yes, the police will have the right to arrest you if you refuse to take either the FSTS or the portable breath test, but your refusal to do so will not matter if your chemical test results show that you are under the legal limit. For you to be charged with DWI, the officer must first be able to provide factual evidence that you were indeed over the limit or impaired. If the officer cannot prove his or her claims, then your DWI case may be thrown out.
If you are truly confident that you are not over the limit and that you are in complete control of your body, however, then you may take the field sobriety tests if you wish.
It is important to note that while you can refuse field sobriety tests and the portable breath test, the state’s implied consent law makes it illegal to refuse a breath, urine, or blood test at either the police station or hospital after you have been arrested for DWI. Refusal to take any of these tests may result in your license being revoked for at least one year, and being charged with a crime that is more serious. You do, however, have the right to consult with an attorney within a reasonable amount of time before making a decision about the breath, urine, or blood test.