When you are pulled over on suspicion of a DUI, you may be put through a variety of tests. The officer will use these tests to assess your level of intoxication so they can make a decision on whether or not they have sufficient probable cause to arrest you. One of the first steps in the DUI arrest process is the field sobriety test. Standardized field sobriety tests, or SFSTs, are typically requested when an officer pulls someone over and finds reason to believe the person may have been driving under the influence. It is normal to feel like you have to do whatever the officer asks you to do, so you may not be aware that these tests are actually voluntary. Under law, you cannot be forced to take a SFST, and you can technically refuse to submit to one when asked. Whether or not you should refuse, however, depends on what you are willing to risk.
SFSTs are comprised of a battery of three tests: the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk and turn, and the one-leg stand. The horizontal gaze nystagmas tests for smooth tracking as you follow an object with your eyes. The officer is looking for a lack of smooth pursuit. The walk and turn will require you to walk, heel-to-toe, in a straight line and then turn around and return. This tests for coordination and balance. The one-leg stand requires you to stand with legs straight and extend one leg out in front of you. You will be asked to count in successive numbers while you do this. The officer will be observing your balance and coordination and will be noting whether or not you need to keep your foot down or if you hop on your standing leg. The officer will also be noting how well you can follow directions and your general disposition during all three tests. If you are not cooperative or do not follow instructions, the officer may take it as a sign you are guilty. The results of these tests will be included in the police report and can and will be used against you as evidence in court. Regardless of how you think you will perform on these tests, keep in mind that they are used mainly to help the officer make an education decision about the arrest. Performing poorly may result in an arrest, but refusing to complete them may result in an arrest as well.
Before you refuse to submit to the battery of SFSTs, consider what kind of message that will send to the district attorney. While your refusal alone won't land you in jail, it will definitely be included in the officer's report. This report is sent to the prosecutor who will review it before officially filing charges. Refusing to submit to a test, before you are even arrested for a DUI, could be read as a sign that you were guilty. It is also important to note that unlike the SFSTs, the blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, test is required under California's Admin Per Se law. You cannot refuse to submit to a BAC test after a DUI arrest without harsh consequences. If you refuse to submit to a BAC test, the DMV will automatically suspend your driving privileges for a period of one year.
If you have never been arrested for a DUI, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with your rights before you even have to exercise them. If you have been arrested for a DUI, it is also a good idea to find out more about what you should have or could have done. This can help you better understand the evidence against you in your case. Being aware of this evidence can help you strategize your defense in court. Speak with an experienced California DUI defense attorney if you have questions about the charges you face. A DUI arrest does not necessarily end in a DUI conviction. The criminal justice system has its limits, and evidence is a crucial and necessary component to convict you. Because there are many things that could cause you to perform poorly on an SFST, the results of these tests alone may not be sufficient to convict you. Medical conditions, fatigue, or general poor concentration can compromise your ability to successfully complete the tests. Fortunately, the results of an SFST can and often are challenged in court. Speaking with an attorney can help you understand the odds stacked against you and your options for challenging the results of your SFSTs.
Are you facing DUI charges and have questions about your arrest? Contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team for criminal defense help in Tulare, Fresno or Kings County. Experienced in DUI defense, Mr. Martens will work hard to defend your rights in court. With over ten years of exclusive experience in criminal defense, Attorney Martens has taken over 50 cases to trial and will not be afraid to do the same for you. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.