One of the ways the police try and determine drivers’ degree of intoxication
is by asking them to perform
field sobriety tests. Generally, the suspicious officer already determined that a person needed
to be pulled over, whether for speeding, driving recklessly, or another
traffic violation, and per their training, will observe the driver for
any indication that they are under the influence of alcohol or
drugs, or both.
Preparing for Field Sobriety Tests
If an officer suspects that a driver is “under the influence”
of drugs or alcohol, the officer will ask the driver to get out of the
car to perform field sobriety tests. When getting out of the car, it’s
important to keep any movements slow and deliberate.
Avoid speaking in case any words become unintentionally slurred or in case
an officer may misinterpret them. It’s crucial to be respectful
to an officer, even if you disagree with them pulling you over, or they’re
apparently having a bad day and are in a rotten mood. Usually though,
we find that officers will be polite if you’re polite.
While it is likely that a driver is nervous, staying calm will be beneficial.
Even a person that has consumed no alcohol may fail a field sobriety test
due to nerves. Field sobriety tests are difficult for anyone to perform,
even perfectly sober people have a hard time with them!
Some of the most common field sobriety tests:
- Walking heel-to-toe for nine steps and turning back to repeat the walk
- Standing on one leg
- Touching the tip of the nose with closed eyes
- Counting or reciting the alphabet
- The pen test
Even if a driver passes the field sobriety tests with flying colors, an
officer may believe that the driver could have a “high tolerance”
to alcohol. Meaning the driver has a high BAC, but they aren’t showing
it. In this scenario, the officer asks the driver to take a breath test
to measure the driver’s
blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
If a breath or blood test determines that a person was driving with a BAC
over the .08% legal limit, they will likely be charged with
Saying ‘No’ to Field Sobriety Tests
In California, field sobriety tests are conducted so police officers can
gain probable cause to make a DUI arrest. Fortunately, these tests are
not required by law, so if you’re ever asked to perform the field sobriety tests, we
recommend that you politely decline and we emphasize being
However, if you’re arrested for DUI and you refuse a blood, breath
or urine test, then your driver’s license will be automatically
suspended for one year, so keep that in mind.
At the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc., our Orange County DUI lawyers
are familiar with field sobriety tests and the tactics used by arresting
officers. If you have questions about your case,
contact us today for a free consultation!