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Can You Refuse to Take a Field Sobriety Test?

Can You Refuse to Take a Field Sobriety Test?

There is something admirable about always respecting and listening to an authority figure, such as a law enforcement officer. But there are times when not doing as you are told is the right choice, and your legal right.

After you are pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) in California, odds are pretty high that sooner than later the police officer is going to tell you to step out of the car to perform some field sobriety tests (FST). At first, you might not recognize what they mean by a field sobriety test, but you have assuredly heard of them before.

Three most common field sobriety tests are:

  1. One-leg stand: You are told to stand on one leg for a duration, possibly a minute or more, and to do so with as little wobbling or balance issues as possible.
  2. Straight-line walk: You are told to walk a straight line drawn on the ground without using your arms for balance, turn around on your heel, and do it again. Repeat as necessary.
  3. Eye-reaction test: The officer will shine a light in your eyes and tell you to follow the tip of their pen or finger with just your pupils; you are not permitted to turn your neck.

The purpose of these FSTs is not necessarily to determine if you are intoxicated, but rather to determine if the officer can find a reason to put you in handcuffs and charge you for a DUI. For this indirect and unspoken purpose, in most cases, you should refuse to take any field sobriety tests.

Won’t I Get In Trouble If I Refuse a Field Sobriety Test?

Take another look at the aforementioned field sobriety tests and see which one seems like it can be scientifically judged with precision. You’re probably thinking that the answer is none, and you would be correct. A field sobriety test always relies on the officer’s own subjective opinion and discretion, not on any reliable form of calculation or study. And the criminal justice system knows this. In California State law, you can refuse to take a field sobriety test without any immediate consequence due to the unreliable nature of the tests themselves.

What is most likely going to happen is that you will be taken back to the station – detained but not charged with a DUI – and told to take a chemical test, such as one that uses your breath, blood, or urine. You should not refuse chemical tests, as doing so permits the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to instantly take away your driver’s license. Since this is an administrative punishment, no criminal defense attorney in the state can bring it to criminal court and challenge it.

Who Can Help Me After I Am Charged with a DUI?

Whether you take a field sobriety test or not, or fail one or not, the police officer might decide to arrest you all the same. The charges being pressed against you should not be taken lightly, as you could lose your license, spend months in jail, and pay the state hundreds or thousands of dollars in fines. If you need help with your DUI arrest, contact our Fresno DUI attorneys from Wapner & Jones, P.C. today. With careful study of your case and claims, we may be able to find a way to definitively shut down the prosecution and protect your freedom and driving privileges. Call (559) 257-4707 for more information.

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