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Do I Have to Take the Field Sobriety Tests?

For the average person, there is a LOT of confusion surrounding driving under the influence. How much alcohol is too much? Can I drive with an open container in my car? Can my passengers drink if I’m not? Will I go to jail if I don’t take the field sobriety tests? The questions go on and on – it’s no wonder why so many people are arrested for DUI!

For the purposes of this post, we are going to focus on the standardized field sobriety test (SFST), brought to you by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and utilized by law enforcement agencies across the United States.

The SFST, otherwise referred to as the “field sobriety tests,” is a battery of three tests, which include the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN test), the walk-and-turn, and the one-leg-stand test.

These roadside tests were developed in the 1970s by the NHTSA and were incorporated into the standard training for DUI detection that is taught to law enforcement officers nationwide.

You’ve probably seen these field sobriety tests on television, in the movies, on YouTube, or you might have even seen drivers outside their cars performing them as you drove by. The question is, do you have to take these divided attention tests when a police officer asks you to? After all, they’re even difficult for sober people to pass!

Should you take the field sobriety tests?

For starters, you are NOT legally required to perform the field sobriety tests and you will not be punished if you politely refuse to take them. Law enforcement officers specifically use these tests to: 1) obtain probable cause to make a DUI arrest, and 2) secure a conviction in court.

Usually, field sobriety tests are captured on the police officer’s dash cam, which is installed in their patrol car. If the officer is wearing a body camera, then they have additional evidence of the driver performing poorly on these difficult tests. So, why give them more ammunition against you?

If you are asked to perform the field sobriety tests, please remember that these are optional. We suggest that you politely refuse to take them since they do more harm than good.

If you don’t take the sobriety tests you can still be arrested for DUI, especially if you have a strong odor of alcohol on your breath, but at least the prosecution won’t have additional evidence to present in court.

Note: If you are arrested for DUI and you refuse to take a chemical test (blood, breath, or urine), your driver’s license will be automatically suspended for one year under California’s implied consent law.

Facing DUI charges in Orange County? Schedule a free case evaluation with a Board Certified DUI defense attorney – Virginia L. Landry!