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No Right to Refuse Field Sobriety Tests, says State Court

Posted Friday, June 24, 2016 by Andrew Charles Huff

A driver suspected of being impaired can have their refusal to perform roadside tests used against them in trial, said the Washington state Supreme Court on Thursday.

The case stems from the 2011 arrest of a driver who refused to perform field sobriety tests, which involves walking a straight line, standing on one leg, and observing eye movements. This “refusal” evidence was then used by prosecutors at trial.In the 5-4 decision Thursday, the state Supreme Court ruled a suspect does not have a constitutional right to refuse field sobriety tests, and the tests are not considered a search under either constitution.

Of the four justices who dissented, two said Mecham’s refusal to take the test was incorrectly treated in court as an admission of guilt. The other two justices said since Mecham was already under arrest, the test was purely a search for evidence and therefore unconstitutional. The dissenting justices said the case should be tried again.One justice, Mary Fairhurst, concurred with the overall ruling but dissented on one aspect of the case.

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