Should I Take Field Sobriety Tests?

No. People are not legally required to take field sobriety tests (FSTs) in California. You are free to decline without worrying about getting penalized for declining to take these tests or getting charged with DUI. This is crucial since even sober drivers sometimes fail FSTs for various reasons other than their blood alcohol concentration (BAC). When this happens, the innocent driver may need to defend themselves against wrongful DUI charges.

What Exactly Are Field Sobriety Tests?

Field sobriety tests are a series of seemingly easy mental and physical exercises that law enforcement officers administer when investigating suspected DUI offenders. Failing these tests is considered to indicate impairment from drugs or alcohol. The police use various types of FSTs, with the most commonly used tests being the following:

  • The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test – The officer will hold an object about 12 inches away from your face and move it left to right repeatedly to check whether your eyeballs are trembling or jerking uncontrollably.
  • The Walk and Turn Test – This involves following a straight line on the road, turning around, and following the same line until you are back in your starting position.
  • The One-Leg Stand Test – The officer will instruct you to raise a leg approximately six inches from the ground while counting aloud at the same time until you are told to stop.

In general, the police want to see if you’re capable of maintaining coordination and balance in your current state. However, many people find walking a straight line or standing on one leg very difficult, whether or not they have been drinking or doing drugs. Older or naturally anxious people may already be trembling and panicking when the police pull them over.

Overweight people may also have a hard time passing FSTs because of balance issues. Furthermore, people with inner ear disorders, scoliosis, or brain injuries may fail these tests, but the police may not know about these issues.

Why Field Sobriety Tests May Be Unreliable

  • Field sobriety tests are subjective. The officer might administer the tests in varying ways to different people, yielding wildly different results. Aside from the officer’s training and experience affecting the test results, a pre-existing condition might also cause a person to react to the FSTs in a manner that’s similar to intoxication.
  • FSTs don’t have a baseline. All tests must have a baseline for accurate comparison. The police don’t have any idea how a person would react to the FSTs under normal circumstances. A person may be suffering from a leg injury or disability that affects how they walk. Perhaps the road is uneven, or the person is exhausted from walking all day at work.
  • The stress factor. Most people feel pressured and stressed in the presence of the police. Being stressed, anxious, nervous, or overwhelmed may lead to confusion, freezing, or nervous laughter, and the police might misinterpret these stress signals as signs of intoxication.

Seek Legal Assistance From a Skilled Ventura DUI Defense Lawyer Now

Do you need legal guidance fighting a DUI charge? Contact the Ventura DUI defense lawyers at Bamieh& De Smeth right away. Dial 805-643-5555 or send us an online message to set up your free case evaluation with our Ventura DUI defense lawyer now.