Field Sobriety Tests in California

With the start of the legislative session, California Senate members were given cards with a number for 24 Hour transportation.  As exposed by the Sac Bee, California Senate officials have hired two part-time employees to provide late night rides for members while they are out in Sacramento, following the high-profile drunk driving arrests involving lawmakers in recent years.  In particular, Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina) has failed three field sobriety tests, Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) recently plead guilty to a “wet reckless” charge, and Assemblyman Martin Garrick (R-Solana Beach) and Sen. Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield) have both plead no contest to DUI charges.

It is no secret that California has a high rate of DUIs, and police will be cracking down.  It seems as if both lawmakers as well as citizens will likely encounter a field sobriety test at one point or another—even if they have not been drinking at all.

What is a Field Sobriety Test?

Field sobriety tests are a series of tests a police officer will request on the side of the road if the officer suspects you have been driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  They typically occur on the side of the road after you have been stopped, so law enforcement can make sure you are not too impaired (above the legal limit) to drive.

There are over 12 different tests, but according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are 3 main standard field sobriety tests that are most effective:

  1. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)- In this test, police will waive a pen in front of your face and telling you to follow it with your eyes.
  2. The divided attention (aka walk and turn)- Police will ask you to take steps down a straight line in a heel-to-toe manner.  This will test your concentration in doing two things at once.
  3. One leg stand: You will be asked to stand on one leg and count out loud.

Other tests include balancing on different legs, counting backwards, or reciting the ABC’s.

You May Refuse a Field Sobriety Test

Under California law, you may legally decline to take a field sobriety test; there are no penalties, although prosecutors will notably paint your refusal as a “consciousness of guilt.” Moreover, the police may have already made their judgement when they decided to stop and ask you to volunteer evidence against yourself.

San Diego DUI Defense Lawyer

If you have been charged with a DUI, do not try to fight this alone.  Prosecutors and police will be aggressive when it comes to bringing a DUI case, and there are steep penalties involved such as license suspension and high fines.  The Law Offices of David M. Boertje regularly represents clients who have been charged with drunk driving in the San Diego area.  Contact us today for a free consultation in your DUI case.