After a night of heavy drinking with friends, you decide to say farewell and drive yourself home. Before reaching your destination, an officer pulls you over because he believes you are driving drunk. You immediately realize that you are intoxicated. If the officer asks you to perform a field sobriety test, do you have a legal right to decline?
What Is A Field Sobriety Test?
A field sobriety test (FST) is a testing procedure used by an officer to determine whether or not there is probable cause to arrest you for a DUI. Below are three different field sobriety tests that an officer may utilize after stopping you for suspicion of a DUI.
The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
In the HGN test, an officer will observe your eyes as you follow a slowly moving object such as a pen or a small flashlight, in a horizontal fashion. The officer will keep a close watch of your eyeball in order to detect an inability to follow the small object or an involuntary jerking motion.
This test requires you to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, in a straight line. After completing this task, you must turn on one foot and take another nine steps, in the same manner, towards your original starting point. The officer will watch if you have trouble maintaining your balance while you perform this test.
The One-Leg Stand
An officer will ask you to stand on one foot while your other foot is approximately six inches off of the ground. While doing so, you will also be required to count aloud by the thousands until the officer asks you to stop. This test is intended to determine how well you can maintain your balance while focusing on another task.
How Accurate Are These Field Sobriety Tests?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that if these aforementioned tests are not conducted properly, such actions will likely “compromise” the testing validity of these procedures. The NHTSA has evaluated these tests and found that even when conducted properly, the reliability of these procedures is questionable. For example, the HGN evaluation only had a 77% reliability rating when properly administered. The walk-and turn test had a 65% reliability rating and the one-leg stand test had a 65% reliability rating.
Do I Need To Submit To A Field Sobriety Test?
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to submit to a field sobriety test if prompted by a police officer at the scene of the stop. In other words, you have a legal right to refuse an FST. These tests are voluntary and intended to assist officers in determining if a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the stop. In fact, your poor performance on any one of these three exams may provide probable cause for arrest and a subsequent DUI conviction at your trial.
If you refuse the take an FST, the officer will likely arrest you for a DUI. Although you will be arrested, you will not take the risk of failing an FST that was improperly conducted and having that test used against you at your trial.
California DUI Lawyer
If you are facing a DUI charge, contact the aggressive California DUI lawyer at Wallin & Klarich today. We will challenge the credibility of the arresting officer, the accuracy of the principles underlying the FST tests, and the subjective nature of the actual evaluation. This thorough analysis will significantly improve the chances of winning your case.
Wallin & Klarich has over 30 years of experience successfully defending clients charged with a DUI. Our offices are conveniently located in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina, Victorville, Torrance, and Sherman Oaks. Please contact us immediately at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 to discuss your case. We will be there when you call.