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Are Field Sobriety Tests Required by Law in a California DUI Stop

Clients always asked me as part of our initial consultation subsequent to their DUI arrest, whether they did the right things. Immediately after a driver has been pulled over for a DUI the officer requests the driver to submit to and complete a series of coordination and balance tests, commonly calledsField Sobriety Tests. They get their name from the common location these tests are administeredswhich is usually not in a police station, but on the side of the road.

These tests are designed to provide police officers with screening information to determine the drivers level of impairmment. Common examples of these tests are walk the line… these tests, like other coordination tests given in DUI cases is first demonstrated and instructed by the officer prior to asking the driver to perform. This popular tests requires the driver to take a designated number of steps on a line or crack in the sidewalk and then duplicate that in the opposite direction. The officer looks for lack of the subject following specific instructions as well as lack of balance.

Another popular field sobriety tests is the nose touch test. This requires the driver to close his eyes tip his head back and touch alternating right and left index fingers to the tip of his nose. Reciting the alphabet, or countig 1-20 and then backwards are also popular.

It is a very popular misconception that these field sobriety tests which are typically part of every DUI investigation are required by law. That is not the case. Since state law does not require a driver to submit to any field sobriety tests when stopped on suspicion of DUI, it is permissible and advisable to pass on the officer’s request to complete these. Although many of my clients tell me they feel that they performed these tests with excellent results, rarely is this reflected in the police officers viewpoint and police report. When asked by the officer to submit to a series of field sobriety tests, simply say you’d rather not.

Don’t help the police officer build a stronger case against you by giving him an opportunity to demonstrate your lack of coordination, or failure to follow the officer’s instructions. These observations are an integral part of his investigation and a building block for a case against you. Don’t help !!!