Breathalyzer and Field Sobriety Test Laws in South Carolina – What You Need to Know

When a person is arrested and charged with a DUI, the results of the individual’s field sobriety or breathalyzer test, or both, will likely be critical to that person’s conviction or vindication. As such, if you are stopped by an officer in South Carolina and asked to submit to a field sobriety or breathalyzer test, you may be wondering whether or not you are legally obligated to do so. Further, you may be wondering what happens if you do submit to testing and the results are not in your favor – do poor test results automatically mean a DUI conviction?

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

If you are asked to perform a field sobriety test, you should know which standard tests are permissible. According to, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has sanctioned three field sobriety tests. These are:

  • The one-leg stand;
  • The walk-and-turn; and
  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus.

This means that other tests, like asking participants to hop up and down on one leg or recite the alphabet backwards, are not standardized and verified. If you are asked to take a non-standard field sobriety test and fail, it may be inadmissible as evidence. This is important to know.

What is even more important to know, perhaps, is that you are not obligated to perform a field sobriety test at all. In fact, in most cases, it is within your best interest to politely refuse to such testing. While there is no penalty for refusing to take a field sobriety test (for example, your license cannot be revoked for your lack of participation), it is likely that the officer will follow up with the request for a breath or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test. Further, you may be arrested for a DUI even if you do not submit to a test based on other probable cause an officer believes they have.

What About Breathalyzers? Do I Have to Consent?

While you do not have to consent to taking a field sobriety test and there are no penalties for refusal for doing so, there are implied consent laws on the books pertaining to breath and blood alcohol tests. In South Carolina, these laws say that by virtue of getting a South Carolina driver’s license, you give your implied consent to agree to undergo breath or blood testing if a peace officer asks you to do so.

However, while you are obligated to submit to a breathalyzer test, you may refuse to do so – this is your right. Your refusal to do so will result in an automatic license suspension of six months, as found in South Carolina Code Section 56-5-2950. A license suspension may seem serious, but it is much less serious than is a DUI conviction. Just like with field sobriety testing, it is almost always within your best interest to refuse a breathalyzer test.

How Can I Get Evidence Against Me Dismissed?

If you did submit to a field sobriety or a breathalyzer test, all hope is not lost. There are ways to have evidence against you dismissed, even if the evidence seems very incriminating and convincing.

First of all, breathalyzers are not flawless. In many cases, breathalyzers are downright defective, and report inaccurate BAC levels. In fact, as reported by an article in the Ventura County Star, hundreds of DUI convictions in Ventura County were possibly going to be overturned and thrown out as the result of defective breathalyzer tests. At The Bateman Law Firm, we can help you to prove that the breathalyzer test involved in your case was defective, contaminated, or otherwise improperly administered.

It is also possible to have the results of a field sobriety test dismissed as well. This is possible in the event that the field sobriety test administered was not one of the sanction tests listed above, or when the test was not properly administered. With more police officers wearing body cameras today, it can be easier to prove that a test was improperly administered.

Why You Need to Work with an Attorney

As stated above, even if the above types of evidence against you are never obtained, or if they are dismissed, it is still possible to be arrested and charged for a DUI. You can be arrest if the officer has probable cause – meaning that it is more likely than not that you are operating your vehicle while intoxicated. And you can be convicted if there is enough evidence, such as police officer’s testimony, video footage of you swerving, or testimony from other witnesses.

For all of these reasons and more, as well as the knowledge related to the implications of breathalyzer and field sobriety tests and how to have this evidence dismissed, you need a competent attorney on your side. Without an attorney, you face a higher risk of conviction, which can be financially costly and result in penalties such as incarceration and jail time.

Contact Our Law Offices Today

At The Bateman Law firm, our South Carolina attorney understands that DUI charges can affect anyone. A DUI charge does not mean that you are a bad person, and we do not believe that your life should be ruined as such. If you have been arrested for a DUI in South Carolina and are wondering what happens next, let our law firm be your guiding light.

Our determined Greenville DUI attorney will handle your case from start to finish, investigating all related evidence and any potential instances of police or judicial misconduct. Our priority is to get charges against you dropped, or to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecution that serves your best interests.

If you are ready to learn more about our legal services, contact us today. You can start by telling us a little about your circumstance by filling out our online form, or you can call us directly.

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