Since January of 2014 the City of St. Louis has practiced a policy of “No Refusals” when requesting a breath test for a DWI suspect. Franklin County, Missouri, has adopted the same policy. This policy of no refusal to breath tests can help the defendant in many cases.
If a driver is suspected of DWI, the police officer making the arrest will apply for a search warrant to authorize an involuntary blood draw if the driver refuses to submit to a breath test. If the driver is intimidated by the prospect of a blood draw, and submits to the breath test, these counties frequently skip Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs).
SFSTs which have long been used to try and develop probable cause for a warrantless arrest of the driver. Sobriety tests vary in quality depending on the officer administering the test but they still have evidentiary value. Some officers follow their training carefully. Other officers do a poor job administering the tests. Sloppy sobriety tests, or none at all, leave the breath test or blood test as the only measure of intoxication.
Now comes the fun part. As a defense attorney, no refusal counties can be helpful. If we can exclude a breath or blood test from evidence due to errors, the DWI case becomes relatively easy to win. When an officer skips SFSTs, he or she is letting go of what could have been important evidence. Poorly administered sobriety tests can also help the defendant.
The practical side of not performing sobriety tests for law enforcement is that police can make more arrests more quickly and keep intoxicated drivers off the road. The practical consequence in trial is that the state will have less evidence to work with if no sobriety tests are performed. My advice to drivers is still to call an experienced St Louis area DWI attorney if stopped by the police and asked for a breath or blood test before agreeing to a chemical test. In Missouri, drivers have a right, if requested, to be given 20 minutes to contact a lawyer before deciding whether or not to submit to a test of their blood or breath. Never be afraid to exercise your rights.