Field Sobriety Tests

Bakersfield DUI Lawyers Setting Things Straight

One of the first things a highway patrol officer in California is going to ask you to do after they pull you over on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) will be to try to test your reflexes and coordination through a series of field sobriety tests (FST). Why do they want you to complete these FSTs? The brutally honest answer is so that they can arrest you.

You are only pulled over when you are suspected of a DUI crime, not because they know for certain you have committed one. If you submit to an FST and fail it, you may be handing all the evidence the officer needs to arrest and charge you right to them. To protect yourself, your reputation, and your future freedoms, you need to know more about field sobriety tests and your rights regarding them.

Need to know more about FSTs right away? Call 661.735.1038 to talk to our Bakersfield DUI lawyers.

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

California highway patrol officers – sometimes referred to as CHiPs – will typically use one or more of a few standardized field sobriety tests. Each of these is meant to gauge your motor control, reflexes, and general sobriety. In almost all circumstances, you will want to refuse taking any FSTs they request.

Four of the most common FSTs you may encounter include:

  1. Standing on one leg: The officer will tell you to balance on one leg for an extended period of time, usually for a minute or more.
  2. Walking a straight line: You will be instructed to walk a straight line by putting one foot directly in front of the other, an unnatural gait to be sure.
  3. Horizontal gaze nystagmus test: Not many people know the technical term for this test, but they know what it is: the officer shines a bright light in your eyes and tell you to follow the end of a pen with just your pupils.
  4. Breathalyzer: Small breathalyzer machines the police often carry on their persons can technically be considered field sobriety tests, not chemical tests.

Why Should You Refuse?

Every type of field sobriety test is purely subjective. There is nothing about how they are conducted that is based on solid science, and yet you can be arrested just for failing one. For example, the angle or condition of the road might make it difficult for anyone to walk a straight line sober. Perhaps your nerves were rattled from the stress of being pulled over so you stumbled while standing on one leg?

The criminal justice system even knows that FSTs cannot be trusted by allowing people to refuse them without immediate consequence. If you are asked to take a field sobriety test, you should calmly tell the officer that you would like to evoke your right to refuse, keeping in mind that you should not make a statement without your attorney present. If they claim you will be taken back to the station for chemical testing, comply.

Remember: refusing to take a chemical test will cause an immediate revocation of your driver’s license through the Department of Motor Vehicle’s jurisdiction, not the criminal justice system. This revocation cannot be contested by even the best of DUI attorneys.

Dial 661.735.1038 for Responsive, Intelligent Representation

The results of a field sobriety test are not set in stone. One of the quick-thinking, hard-hitting Bakersfield DUI attorneys from our law firm may be able to challenge it, and all the other elements of your charges. We can even bring the validity of chemical tests – such as blood, breath, or urine tests – into question, as the slightest miscalibration of the machine can skew the results unfairly. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can get started defending you.