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Nicholas W.
Christoph

William R.
Christoph

Criminal Defense Experience - 40+ Years

Are field sobriety tests mandatory in California?

Whether you had one too many remembering old times with the guys or had a blast out at the bar with your girlfriends, you know that the flashing lights in the rearview mirror on your way home is not a good way to end the night. You know that you have no choice but to pull over, but what happens next? What are your options? Do you have any?

While the situation may seem completely out of control, an individual in this position can still choose how to respond.

After approaching your car and asking you a few questions, the officer may ask you to take a field sobriety test to determine your fitness to drive.

Can you refuse a field sobriety test?

Even if it seems like you should comply with an officer’s request for a field sobriety test, you are not legally required to in California. It is not like refusing a breathalyzer, which can have serious consequences. Field sobriety tests are an investigative tool for police officers, but they are not included in implied consent laws.

To decide whether you want to comply with the officer’s request, you may want more information about the actual tests.

What are the three types of field sobriety tests?

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration endorses the following standardized field sobriety tests:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus: This refers to the involuntary eye jerking that happens when you look to the side, which alcohol consumption exaggerates. This test can include evaluating whether the subject can follow something moving smoothly and continuously with the eyes and more.
  • Walk and turn: This evaluates your ability to walk toe-to-heel in a straight line, turn, and return in the opposite direction.
  • One-leg stand: This test has the subject stand with one foot about six inches off the ground for approximately 30 seconds.

It’s important to note that a refusal to take a field sobriety test does not mean that an arrest or further tests, like a chemical or blood test, will not be forthcoming.

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