If Mississippi law enforcement officers pull you over for speeding or driving erratically, they may have reason to believe that you are under the influence of alcohol. Officers could then ask you to perform one of a series of roadside tests to determine your sobriety.
If you should refuse, they may become demanding and repeat the request forcefully while citing implied consent laws. Since this can quickly turn into an intimidating and potentially devastating situation, you must understand what these laws mean and how they affect you.
What is roadside sobriety testing?
Law enforcement officers cannot arrest you unless they have probable cause, and merely swerving in your lane is usually not enough. According to FindLaw, field sobriety and breath analysis tests are investigational tools that the authorities can use to demonstrate your level of impairment and thus gain probable cause for your arrest. However, they do not necessarily bear the same weight as the chemical tests that you may submit to after arrival at the police station, which could become evidence against you.
What is implied consent?
When you apply for a state-issued driver’s license, you automatically agree to take a roadside sobriety test if an officer asks you. Known as implied consent, it may seem like the law is forcing you to submit to testing, but you are not legally obligated to do so.
However, the greater impacts of implied consent laws are the penalties that follow your refusal. A prosecutor can argue at trial that if you had been sober, you would have had no reason to decline testing. If you are convicted, the refusal could make your punishment worse.
At the least, the state will suspend your driver’s license for at least 90 days, more if you have a prior refusal or DUI conviction. So, while declining a sobriety test might influence your defense, make sure you understand everything at stake.