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What are blood alcohol tests and field sobriety tests?

On Behalf of | Sep 19, 2022 | DUI Defense

Imagine this – you were out drinking with friends and had a few light beers. You didn’t think you were that drunk and, against your friend’s better judgment, decided to drive home. On your way home, an officer saw you drifting and speeding past a red light, this caused them to pull you over under the suspicion of drunk driving (DUI/DWI) – this is never a situation anyone wants to find themselves in.

Even if there are clear signs that you were intoxicated behind the wheel, an officer may still ask you to take a test. Law enforcement has multiple tools at their disposal to test drunk drivers: blood alcohol content (BAC) tests and field sobriety tests (FST). Here’s what you should know:

Testing your blood alcohol content

Your blood alcohol content can’t be 0.08% or above, otherwise, you’ll be charged with a DUI/DWI. If an officer asks to test your BAC, they’ll likely administer a breath test. A breath test is a small device that tests a driver’s BAC with a puff of air.

Alternatively, if a breath test is unavailable, an officer may have a driver do a blood test. Blood tests are done in a lab and have a higher degree of accuracy. If neither test is available, a urine test may be done, however, these tests are regarded as very inaccurate.

North Carolina law is an implied consent state and a refusal of a BAC test may cause repercussions: license suspension and legal charges.

Doing a field sobriety test

Conversely, you may be asked to do a standardized field sobriety test. There are several common FSTs: walk and turn test, visual gaze tests or a one-legged stand test. Officers are evaluating a driver’s muscle control and responsiveness with FSTs.

These tests, however, are graded by gut feeling and often show false results. Disabilities, medication and exhaustion can all affect the results of FSTs.

You may refuse an FST. Officers can’t force you to do an FST and, unlike a BAC test refusal, you won’t immediately face repercussions.

If you’re facing a DUI/DWI, you may need to know your options when building a defense.