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Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
Former Cook County Felony Prosecutor

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No, Field Sobriety Tests Are Not Required in Illinois

When an officer of the law in Illinois pulls you over under suspicion of DUI, he or she many choose to administer a field sobriety test. The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has approved several standardized tests to assess one’s sobriety while on the road.


Here’s something a lot of people don’t know, though: you can refuse to undergo a field sobriety test without suffering prescribed legal consequences. Many Illinois residents don’t realize this because they lump field sobriety tests together with breath and blood tests. However, while those tests do have set consequences for refusing to take them, field sobriety tests don’t.


To be fair, refusing a field sobriety test will most likely result in the officer arresting you.


However, typically by the time an officer asks someone to perform an FST, they’re already planning on arresting you. They just want the evidence they can gather from the tests to back up their decision.


No matter what happens, refusing a sobriety test limits the amount of incriminating evidence that can be used against you if you are charged with DUI. More evidence against you means a higher likelihood of conviction, which is something that can really cost you.

How Do Illinois Field Sobriety Tests Work?


The police in Illinois can use any or all of the following standardized tests to assess your sobriety.


HGN – Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test


During this test, a law enforcement officer observes the eyeball of the person being tested. An individual whose sobriety is compromised will display involuntary jerkiness of the eyeball.


WAT – Walk and Turn Test


It’s been found that BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) levels of 0.08% or more affect balance and coordination. During the Walk and Turn test, the police examine an individual’s ability to walk along a straight line and turn on one foot.


OLS – One Legged Stand Test


When performing this test, a police officer assesses one’s sobriety by asking them to stand on one leg for about 30 seconds.

Why You Should Refuse a Field Sobriety Test in Illinois


There are so many reasons. Here are just a few:


  • None of the above tests is 100% accurate in determining the level of sobriety in a person.
  • Incorrect administration and bias by the police officers oftentimes taint the accuracy of field sobriety tests.
  • Just because you pass the FST doesn’t mean the police will let you go. There have been plenty of instances when a person passes the field sobriety test and the officer still brings them in and charges them with DUI.
  • The law doesn’t obligate anyone to take a field sobriety test
  • Field sobriety tests give the police extra evidence that they can use against you in a court of law
  • A sobriety test is far more likely to incriminate rather than exonerate you.

How to Refuse an Illinois Field Sobriety Test


Just because you are legally allowed to refuse an officer when they ask you to take field sobriety tests doesn’t mean there isn’t a right and wrong way to do it. If your response is perceived as rude or belligerent, you could end up hurting your case as much as you help it.


Here’s what to do:


  • Politely decline the police officer’s request to perform a sobriety test by saying, “No thank you, sir.”
  • Don’t be smug.
  • Comply when asked to produce your driver’s license and registration.
  • Don’t let the police scare, coerce, or threaten you into taking the test.
  • Do not threaten the officer or raise your voice.
  • Remain calm and don’t say anything that the officers might use against you.


Illinois DUI Lawyer

Unfortunately, a DUI charge is likely in your future, but do not lose hope. There are numerous strategies that a skilled Chicago criminal lawyer can use to help you fight back.




About the Author:


Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.


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