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Can I Refuse to Take the Field Sobriety Tests?

  • May 26, 2017

    Under the implied consent laws in every state, all licensed drivers must take a blood, breath or urine test to determine the presence of drugs or alcohol in their system. When an officer suspects a person of driving under the influence (DUI), they must submit to a chemical test to determine their blood alcohol content. Breathalyzer test results are often inaccurate because hand-held machines must be calibrated every six months. Most experts admit that one breath test is not reliable evidence. Once the person has been arrested, the officer must inform them of the consequences of refusing to take the test.

    If you have been arrested for driving under the influence, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. Never talk to the police or admit that you have consumed any amount of alcohol. It is the job of the prosecutor to convince a judge or jury that you are guilty.

    Officers Must Have Probable Cause
    The laws in each state require law enforcement officers to have knowledge that the suspect was in physical control of the vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This means that a person can be arrested for a DUI even if the vehicle was not moving at the time. Police officers must have probable cause to pull someone over for suspicion of drunk driving. Simply weaving without crossing the lines in the road does not constitute probable cause. Once an officer has stopped the vehicle, they will often ask the driver to participate in several field sobriety tests. The three standard field sobriety tests officers will conduct include the following:

    • One Leg Stand—The officer will request that the suspect stand on one leg for a set amount of time. In order for the test to be performed properly, the foot of the suspect must be raised six inches off the ground while the other foot is parallel to the ground, with toes pointing forward. The officer will be looking for any signs of impairment, such as lack of coordination or balance. Certain conditions can impact the results of the test, including physical disabilities, bad weather or poor lighting.

    • Walk and Turn—The suspect will be asked to take nine steps in a heel to toe fashion while walking in a straight line. After the person reaches the ninth step, they must turn around on one foot and walk back in the opposite direction. The officer will be trying to see if the suspect can maintain their balance while performing this test. A person can fail this test if it was performed on an uneven or slippery surface.

    • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus—During this test, a flashlight is placed directly in front of the suspect’s face and waved back and forth from each side. The officer observes the driver’s eyes to check for signs of involuntary jerking which can often occur when someone is under the influence of alcohol. There are many reasons a person might fail this test, including inner ear problems, hypertension or suffering from glaucoma.

    The field sobriety tests in most states are not mandatory, although most law enforcement officers will rarely tell drivers that they are not required to take them if they have been pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence.

    When to Consult a Criminal Defense Lawyer
    There are many reasons to challenge the field sobriety test evidence. This includes the age, weight or physical condition of the accused. Drivers that have a physical handicap may not be able to perform these tests. There are many ways to defend against a DUI charge and an experienced Los Angeles DUI attorney might even get the case dismissed.

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