One of the most stressful questions a police officer can ask a driver is whether they have had something to drink. Most motorists know that such questions usually proceed with enhanced screening for signs of alcohol impairment.
Police officers can ask someone to exit their vehicles to perform field sobriety tests or chemical breath tests. Oftentimes, people are unsure of their rights during these encounters and might make mistakes that end up complicating their legal situation. It is important to understand one’s rights in these situations to better safeguard them until an attorney can be contacted.
Officers cannot force someone to perform a test
During traffic stops, police officers generally want to gather as much evidence of criminal activity as possible. To do so, they often require the cooperation of the motorist. Technically, drivers do have the right to decline a field sobriety test. These tests include following an officer’s finger with the eyes only, standing on one leg or walking and then turning around and coming back in a straight line. Such tests help officers detect warning signs of intoxication. They cannot force someone to perform those tests, but they can sometimes arrest someone based on what they have already witnessed after they refuse to perform the test.
A breath test is a little different. Technically, state law requires that drivers submit to testing post-arrest for a suspected impaired driving infraction. Drivers still have the option of refusing, but doing so will lead to immediate consequences. They could then face accusations of violating both the implied consent law about chemical testing during traffic stops and impaired driving laws. The penalties for an implied consent violation include a license suspension, which would be levied in addition to any penalties for a drunk driving conviction. Officers may also be able to talk about someone’s behavior during the traffic stop, including their test refusal, during an impaired driving trial.
With all of this said, those who have refused tests may have ways to fight the charges that they face, and those who have failed tests may have other solutions available. Learning more about the laws that apply during the South Carolina traffic stop may help people better assert their rights when dealing with a police officer and seeking legal guidance can help you respond to a situation that ends in an arrest.