Stopped on Suspicion of a DUI? What You Need to Know About Field Sobriety Tests

There’s no sight that ramps up your anxiety like those vivid red, white, and blue lights behind your vehicle while driving. As soon as you realize it’s you who is being stopped, a million thoughts race through your head, like “What did I do wrong? Did I miss a stop sign? Are my tags updated?”

Regardless of the reason for the stop, it’s still an incredibly stressful situation. And chances are, you won’t be able to think clearly while it is underway. So, when an officer urges you to step out of your vehicle and undergo field sobriety tests, you may not know how to respond, or you may feel pressured to comply without asking any questions.

What Are Field Sobriety Tests?

When an officer stops you on suspicion of driving under the influence, their main objective is to look for signs that you’re impaired. Evidence of impairment can show up as slurred speech, bloodshot red eyes, the smell of alcohol on your breath, etc. In most cases, an officer will ask you to take a field sobriety test if you exhibit observable signs of impairment.

Standardized tests are endorsed by the National Highway Safety Traffic and Safety Administration. There are three tests that are routinely administered to drivers. They are:

  • the walk-and-turn test: During this test, an officer will request that you put your hands at your side and walk to and fro a certain distance in heel-to-toe fashion. Stepping out of line, turning improperly, taking an incorrect amount of steps, raising your arms to stay balanced etc. are signs of impairment to an officer.
  • the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN): To conduct this test, an officer will pass a hand-held object – usually a flashlight or pen – across your face while you follow the object with your eyes. This is to examine your nystagmus or a jerking reaction that occurs when a person is intoxicated. A sober person’s eyes will typically follow the object smoothly, while an impaired person’s eyes will lag behind or jump in an effort to correct themselves.
  • the one-leg stand test: this test requires that you raise one foot approximately six inches off the ground with both arms firmly planted at your side for 30 seconds. Actions like swaying while trying to balance, hopping up and down, or putting your foot down to steady yourself are an indication of impairment in the eyes of an officer.

You Can Refuse Field Sobriety Tests

You are not legally obligated to take field sobriety tests. If you don’t want to take one when requested, you can politely decline with no legal consequences. However, if an officer still believes they have sufficient evidence of impairment outside an administered test, you may be arrested. But the good news is, the evidence won’t be as convincing without standardized field sobriety test results.

Been Charged With a DUI? You Need an Experienced Attorney

If you’ve been arrested and charged with a DUI in Santa Rosa, you should immediately contact a criminal defense attorney. The sooner an attorney can get on a case, the sooner they can start building a solid defense. A DUI is a serious charge that requires aggressive and experienced representation. Wilber Law Offices has years of extensive experience representing clients who’ve acquired misdemeanor and felony DUI charges, helping to get their sentences reduced, and even get charges dismissed. Contact us today online or by phone at (707) 986-4482.

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