California DUI Field Sobriety Tests
When you are stopped by police and they suspect that you are intoxicated, they will likely ask you to perform a field sobriety test. In most cases of DUI arrests, the police will ask you to take a field sobriety test before asking to take you a chemical sobriety test that measures your BAC or a blood test to check for drug intoxication. These field tests are designed to measure your physical impairment. Even if you have a BAC that is under the legal limit, you could still be arrested for DUI if you fail a field sobriety test. According to California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a), you are considered under the influence when:
your physical or mental abilities are impaired to such a degree that you no longer have the ability to drive with the caution characteristic of a sober person of ordinary prudence under the same or similar circumstances.
Failing a sobriety test can be evidence that your physical abilities were impaired. Also, when you perform these tests, you will be recorded by the camera in the police officer's dashboard. This video will later be used against you as evidence of your intoxication.
Field sobriety tests were designed to be hard to pass and they can be strong evidence against you if you look impaired on video. Luckily, performing these tests are not mandatory. In fact, you should decline performing a field sobriety test and will not face any punishment for doing so. Many people think that declining a test is an admission of guilt, but legal savvy drivers know that this is not the case.
Standard Field Sobriety Tests in California
There are many types of tests that a police officer may ask you to perform. Only three field sobriety tests, however, have been approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to accurately measure a driver's impairment. These tests are not perfect and leave a lot of room for interpretation. These tests include:
One-leg stand – To perform this test, the driver must stand with one foot raised about 6 inches off of the ground and keep it there for 30 seconds. The driver must also count out loud during the test. If you use your arms to balance yourself or waver at any point, the officer can use this as evidence that you are impaired.
Walk-and-turn – For the walk-and-turn test, the driver must walk in a straight line by placing one foot heel-to-toe. The driver must take nine steps forward and then turn and walk nine steps back. If you use your hands to balance yourself or misstep, you can be ruled as impaired.
Horizontal nystagmus test – For this test, the police officer will place a flashlight or other object in front of your line of sight in order to look for nystagmus, an involuntary twitching of the eyes that is common in impaired drivers. If the police believe they see evidence of nystagmus, you can be charged for DUI.
As you can see from these descriptions, these tests are easy to fail and if a police officer believes that you are intoxicated, they can easily judge a minor slip up as a sign of impairment.
California Field Sobriety Test Defense
Field sobriety tests are very flawed. People can fail these tests for many reasons other than intoxication. If you have poor balance, an eye condition, leg or foot injuries, or are just nervous because you are being stopped by police, you can fail a field sobriety test. A lawyer can use these arguments to challenge your DUI charges.
Field sobriety tests can be helpful in some situations. If you pass a field sobriety test but fail a chemical sobriety test, you can still be arrested for DUI in California. Thanks to police dashboard cameras, there will be evidence that you were able to perform the field tests. Your attorney can get access to this video and show in court that you were not physically impaired. This can make a huge impact on your case as jurors can see for themselves that you were not intoxicated.
If you have been arrested for DUI in California, we can help. Even if you think that the prosecution will have too much evidence against you to fight your charges, you have defense options. Our lawyers know how to fight the evidence against you and what defenses work the best. We are a team of skilled lawyers from various backgrounds who will go over your case and look for weak areas in the prosecution's case. We will aggressively fight to challenge the results of your field and chemical sobriety tests. In many cases, you can even avoid going to trial and settle your case out of court my getting your charges reduced or taking a generous plea bargain. There is a lot that a DUI attorney can do for you, so call us now.