In California, field sobriety tests are a common method used by police officers in an attempt to determine whether a person has been driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol. If you are pulled over and the police suspect that you are intoxicated, there is a high probability that you will be asked to perform one of these tests. While the police may like you to assume that these roadside sobriety tests are mandatory, there is nothing in the law that states that you must participate. Furthermore, field sobriety tests are not required for the police to make an arrest. This means that even if you take and pass a test, you may still be charged with DUI.
The three common field sobriety tests include:
- One leg stand: Suspects are asked to raise one foot while counting out loud for a predetermined period of time. This is an example of a split attention test.
- Walk and turn: An officer will instruct a suspect to walk, heel-to-toe, in a straight line before turning and walking back in the same manner. The walk and turn test is the second of the two split attention tests. Individuals may also be asked to count their steps
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus: A police officer will ask subjects to follow an object such as a light or pen horizontally across their field of vision. “Nystagmus” is the involuntary movement of the eyes and the effect can be augmented by alcohol.
It is important to note that the breath, blood, and urine tests conducted at the police station are different from the roadside sobriety tests. The refusal to take these chemical tests can result in harsh administrative penalties such as the suspension of a driver’s license. It is generally not recommended that an individual denies these tests.
What to Do If You Have Been Arrested
Field sobriety tests are not an accurate gauge of intoxication and an attorney can help you to diminish their courtroom effect by calling their reliability into question. The official guidelines set forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) state that even under laboratory conditions, testing can be inaccurate over 20% of the time. Real-world accuracy rates may be even lower as roadside conditions such as uneven payment, bad weather, and heavy traffic can skew results.
Additionally, the “results” of a test are left up to the discretion of the administering officer. If an officer simply feels as though you demonstrated indicators of intoxication, it may constitute probable cause for an arrest regardless of if you had been drinking. Remember, these tests are not meant to give drivers a chance to prove their innocence. The police may be gathering evidence against you from the moment they pull you over and these tests represent a tool law enforcement can use to build their case.
Fight Your DUI Charges – Call (559) 257-4707
A conviction for driving under the influence can have serious consequences such as time in jail, substantial fines, and the suspension of your license. If you have been charged with DUI after participating in a roadside field sobriety test, we want to hear your side of the story. Our Fresno DUI attorneys possess 50+ years of legal experience and have handled 1000’s of DUI and criminal cases. At Wapner Jones, P.C., we know how to challenge the evidence against you and maximize the strength of your defense.
Speak to our attorneys during a FREE consultation and learn about how you can beat your DUI charges.