Can I Refuse to Take a Field Sobriety Test in CA?

When law enforcement makes a traffic stop for suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), one of the things an officer will ask a suspect to do is participate in one or more field sobriety tests (FSTs). These tests are designed to measure a driver’s ability to maintain balance and coordination, as well as remember and follow instructions.

The three field sobriety tests that are standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration include:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test – The driver must follow a moving object (e.g. pen, flashlight, finger, etc.) with his/her eyes. The officer will look for involuntary jerking of the eyes when they reach certain angles.
  • One-leg stand test – The driver must stand with one foot raised six inches off the ground and count aloud for 30 seconds. The officer will look for balance difficulties, hopping, swaying, or putting the foot down.
  • Walk-and-turn test – The driver must take nine steps in a straight line, heal-to-toe, then turn on one foot and repeat. The officer will look for balance difficulties, use of your arms to balance, and your ability to remember instructions.

However, there is one reason why these tests are performed: to provide law enforcement with more evidence and probable cause to make an arrest. The truth is that officers have usually made up their minds to arrest a suspect when they administer the FSTs.

Even if you believe you passed each test with flying colors, they are subjective in nature. Even a sober person can have trouble performing FSTs. Sometimes officers don’t consider a person’s medical conditions, injuries, and other factors that would affect his/her balance and coordination.

If an officer asks you to participate in an FST, you have the right to refuse. Unlike a post-arrest chemical test, you will not be penalized for your refusal.

Remember, a refusal can still lead to arrest because the police may observe other behaviors that indicate intoxication, such as erratic driving before getting pulled over, the smell of alcohol on your breath, slurred speech, or delayed responses to questions. At least no field sobriety tests will be used against you in court.

If you have been arrested for drunk driving in Bakersfield, CA, contact Koenig Law Office at (661) 793-7222 today to schedule a free consultation.