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    What Are Field Sobriety Tests and Can You Refuse Them?

    Posted on: May 5th, 2024 by Dod Law

    Field Sobriety Tests

    Field Sobriety Tests

    Field sobriety tests discourage intoxicated driving and allow officers to determine whether or not suspicious individuals are in violation of California’s DUI laws. What are the most common field sobriety tests, though, and can you refuse a field sobriety test on the road? 

    You may find yourself contending with many types of field sobriety tests if officers suspect you’ve imbibed in a mind-altering substance before hitting the road. Officers may also ask you to take a breathalyzer test. You can refuse any of these field sobriety tests, but doing so can impact your right to drive in the long-run. Dod Law is here to help break down the impact field sobriety tests can have on the DUI charges officers can bring against you.

    What Are California’s Common Sobriety Tests?

    California’s most common field sobriety tests include the following:

    The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test

    Officers require a driver suspected of operating under the influence to track a stylus back and forth. If a driver cannot follow a stylus like a flashlight or pen without exhibiting an involuntary jerking of the eye, then officers may suspect that the subject isn’t safe to operate a motor vehicle. This involuntary jerking is referred to as “nystagmus.” 

    Walk-and-Turn Test

    Officers conducting a walk-and-turn test require participants to place one foot in front of the other nine times in a row while walking in a straight line. Participants must complete nine heel-to-toe steps in one direction before turning around and completing another nine heel-to-toe steps back toward the officer.

    This test requires participants to display a functional balance and follow officers’ directions. Failure to do so can see the participant arrested on suspicion of public intoxication.

    One-Leg Stand

    One-leg stand test participants must remain steadily on one leg for a reasonable amount of time determined by testing police officers. While this test isn’t particularly fair to those parties who are uncoordinated in their day-to-day lives, it generally tests balance and coordination. Officers also want to make sure participants can follow instructions, as failure to do so may endanger other people on the road.

    Finger-to-Nose Test

    Participants engaging in a finger-to-nose test must close their eyes and touch their nose with their finger. Most officers require participants to complete this test twice, once with each hand. A participant’s accuracy can reflect the severity of their intoxication.

    Breathalyzer Test

    California has discontinued the use of urine-based breathalyzer tests unless participants have certain health requirements. Generally, parties operating motor vehicles in California can expect to blow into a breathalyzer test if police officers suspect them of driving under the influence. These on-the-scene tests can update an officer as to the alcohol content of someone’s blood level with mixed degrees of accuracy.

    Can You Refuse a Sobriety Test?

    You have the right to refuse to participate in a field sobriety test that puts your balance in question. You must, however, take a chemical test if offered one by attending police. You can request a urine test if you have hemophilia or take heart condition-related medications, but officers may otherwise expect you to participate in a blood or breath test.

    It is not in your best interest to refuse a field sobriety test. Doing so can see officers immediately arrest you on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. You can lose your license for up to a year if you refuse to engage. Subsequent refusals may see you lose your license for two or three years, depending on your criminal history and engagement with police.

    Field Sobriety Tests – Contact a DUI Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

    California law enforcement makes a concentrated effort to discourage residents from drinking and driving before they hit the road. If you suspect an officer may have incorrectly conducted a field sobriety test or otherwise illegally targeted you on suspicion of a DUI, you can work with a criminal defense attorney to refute the charges brought against you.

    You can contact Attorney Dod with Dod Law today to learn more about your right to defend yourself against wrongful DUI charges. Contact us at our San Diego office (619) 814-5110 | Orange County office 949-681-7020  | Vista office 760-814-6025 | or schedule an appointment by filling out our online contact form to book a free defense evaluation today. We’re ready to stand up for you!

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    Meet Attorney Dod Ghassemkhani

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