Field Sobriety Tests in a San Diego Driving Under The Influence Charge

  • September 1, 2017

    Standard field sobriety tests were developed by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. They’re widely used by police officers in and around San Diego. They consist of three tests that are used to determine whether the driver of a motor vehicle might be impaired. Those are the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, the walk and turn test and the one leg stand test. If a driver fails one or more of the tests, a police officer might establish probable cause for a DUI arrest.

    Horizontal gaze nystagmus test
    Nystagmus is an optical condition that involves involuntary movement of the eyes when a test subject looks to the side. A person who is under the influence of alcohol will experience difficulty and jerking movements when tracking an object like a pen or a small flashlight from side to side. Tracking should ordinarily be smooth.

    Walk and turn test
    With this test, the detaining officer will ask the subject driver to take nine steps along a straight line touching their toes to their heels with each step. Upon taking the nine steps the subject must turn on one foot and return to the point of origin in the same manner. Three assessments are made with this test. It measures a person’s ability to maintain their balance, walk in a straight line and follow instructions.

    Stand on one leg test
    A subject is required to stand on one leg for 30 seconds while counting aloud when performing this test. Some police officers have instructed subjects to recite the alphabet backwards too during the test. Like the walk and turn test, the standing on one leg test measures performance, balance and the ability to follow instructions.

    Inability to satisfactorily perform
    A person who has never had a drink in their life might not satisfactorily perform all three of the standard field sobriety tests. Other drivers might not be able to physically perform them due to disease, injury or age. Any physical inability to perform one or more of the tests should be noted by the investigating officer.

    You’re not required to perform field sobriety tests
    California law doesn’t require a driver to perform any field sobriety tests at all. If you’re pulled over by police on a suspected DUI, listen carefully. No matter how authoritative that the police officer sounds, he or she is merely requesting that you submit to the tests. You are not being commanded to take them. You can even refuse to blow into a portable breath testing device at the site of the traffic stop without any legal consequences. Don’t give police and prosecutors additional evidence to try to convict you with. Remember that the police officer is only asking you to perform field sobriety tests. You can politely refuse them.

    Body and dash cams
    Also remember that anything you say or do is probably being recorded by a body or dash cam. Other than your name and address, you can politely refuse to answer any other questions or comply with additional requests.

    Refusing blood or breath sample
    Don’t get a portable handheld breath testing device confused with a certified breath testing device. If you refuse breath testing on a certified device, there will be consequences against your driver’s license. Some California jurisdictions have even equipped their police cars with certified breath testing machines. Take notice that if a police officer really wants to know your blood alcohol content level, he or she need only obtain a search warrant from a judge for blood testing. That cannot be refused.

    If you failed one or more field sobriety tests in or around San Diego, and you were placed under arrest, or if you refused to perform them, and you were arrested anyway, you’ll want to speak with us about your case and the impact of your arrest on your driver’s license. The California legislature has imposed short and strict time limits for contesting the impact on your license. Contact us right away after any DUI arrest.

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