A DUI can have serious consequences for California residents, ranging from legal trouble and expenses to issues with their employment. As a result, it’s crucial to understand your rights when stopped by the police.
What a field sobriety test is
When a police officer pulls someone over with the suspicion that the driver is impaired, they will usually use field sobriety tests to establish whether or not the driver is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
A field sobriety test is a standardized series of examinations administered by a police officer to a driver. The test generally consists of three physical tasks. One asks the driver to follow an object moved from side to side in front of their eyes. Another asks them to walk in a straight line, turn and walk back. The third asks them to stand on one leg for a period of time.
In all tests, the officer is looking for signs of impairment, which are established by a set of criteria. Failing the test as the officer administers it may result in a DUI arrest.
Refusing a field sobriety test
There is no legal obligation for a driver to take a field sobriety test. You are perfectly within your rights to tell a police officer that you refuse to participate. With that being said, there are a number of things to keep in mind.
First, refusing a field sobriety test does not mean that an officer can’t arrest you. In fact, it is extremely possible that you may be arrested if you refuse. But you should also be aware that an officer can arrest you even if you pass a field sobriety test.
If you do choose to refuse a field sobriety test, do so in a polite and non-confrontational way. Escalating a conflict can result in further charges against you. Being able to refuse a field sobriety test doesn’t mean you can refuse all commands an officer issues, such as stepping out of your vehicle.