Understanding DUI Tests
Oct. 24, 2022
Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is prohibited and often punished severely in California. On reasonable suspicion of drunk driving, a police officer can stop your car and request you to take a DUI test – chemical test or field sobriety test.
Unfortunately, the majority of California drivers are ignorant of their rights regarding DUI tests when pulled over by the police and often end up in the worst-case scenario. A strategic California criminal defense attorney can educate you about your rights with DUI tests when arrested or pulled over by a police officer.
At The Law Office of John Goalwin, we enjoy providing dependable representation and experienced legal counsel to clients in their DUI cases. Our trusted legal team has the resources to review every aspect of your case and familiarize you with what to do when stopped or arrested for alleged drunk driving in California. Our firm is proud to serve clients across Los Angeles, Compton, Torrance, and Norwalk, California.
Understanding Implied Consent in California
California's implied consent law requires a driver who has been lawfully arrested for driving while under the influence (DUI) to submit to a blood or breath test to determine their blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Pursuant to California Vehicle Code 23612:
"A person who drives a motor vehicle is deemed to have given his or her consent to chemical testing of his or her blood or breath for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content of his or her blood if lawfully arrested for a DUI-related offense."
If you refuse to take or submit to a chemical test, your driver's license will be automatically suspended – regardless of the outcome of your DUI case. Likewise, you will face increased penalties if eventually found guilty.
Blood Alcohol Test vs. Sobriety Test
A blood alcohol test is usually carried out to measure a person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) – the amount of alcohol in the body or blood. In the state of California, a defendant may be facing DUI charges for having a BAC of 0.08% or more. According to California laws, blood alcohol tests – after a lawful DUI arrest – are compulsory. Refusing a lawfully requested blood alcohol test can result in the administrative driver's license suspension or revocation and other additional penalties.
In contrast, field sobriety tests comprise three standardized tests used by law enforcement officers to determine if a person's driving ability is impaired. However, these field sobriety tests are not as accurate as blood alcohol tests – to determine if a person is sober or their driving ability is impaired. Under California law, field sobriety tests are voluntary, and there are no punishments for refusing.
Types of Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are a group of three standardized tests used by law enforcement to determine whether a driver is impaired. These field sobriety tests are approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). They include:
The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
The horizontal gaze nystagmus test involves the jerking of the eyeballs. The officer will ask the alleged drunk driver to follow a moving object slowly. The officer will observe whether the driver can trail the moving object in a smooth way or not.
The One-Leg Stand Test
In the one-leg stand test, the police officer will ask the driver to stand on one foot about six inches away from the ground and count aloud – from 1,001 – for about 30 seconds. During the process, the offer will observe whether the driver is hopping around, swaying, or putting their foot down.
The Walk-and-Turn Test
In the walk-and-turn test, the law enforcement officer will ask the driver to take nine steps – in a heel-to-toe manner – along a straight line. Once done, the officer will ask the driver to turn around on a single foot and return to the opposite direction in the same heel-to-toe style. The officer will continue observing for various indications of intoxication or impairment during the test.
Generally, sobriety tests don't accurately tell if a person is sober or impaired. Hence, they are not usually required. Unlike a chemical test, there are no consequences for refusal.
Consequences of Refusal
Below are some of the consequences of refusing to take a field sobriety test or blood alcohol test in California:
Field Sobriety Test: As previously mentioned, field sobriety tests are voluntary in California. You can refuse to submit to a field sobriety test. There are no penalties or ramifications for refusing.
Blood Alcohol Test: Conversely, refusing a lawful breathalyzer or blood alcohol test after an arrest is a violation of California's implied consent law. Possible consequences include:
A mandatory driver's license suspension.
Enhanced penalties asides from the standard California DUI penalties.
Unfortunately, a DUI conviction may result in harsher penalties and other far-reaching, immediate, and life-long ramifications. Therefore, when arrested and charged with drunk driving, you need to retain a highly-skilled DUI defense lawyer to determine the best defenses to help fight your allegations.
Creative & Compassionate Legal Advocacy
Facing DUI charges in California can be terrifying and overwhelming. Notwithstanding the surrounding circumstances of your case, you need to understand your rights and responsibilities regarding DUI tests and the consequences of refusing a chemical test. A well-informed criminal defense attorney can help strategize your defenses and help you navigate vital decisions in your DUI case.
At The Law Office of John Goalwin, our team has the comprehensive skills and resources to protect individuals facing drunk driving charges from the worst possible penalties. As your legal counsel, we can examine every part of your case and determine if the arresting officer had probable cause to stop your vehicle or arrest you.
In addition, our practiced attorney will assess the different tests performed by the police, identify potential issues, and outline a solid defense strategy to help fight your DUI case in pursuit of the most favorable outcome. Having our team on your side can make a significant difference in your drunk driving case.
Contact The Law Office of John Goalwin today to arrange a simple case assessment with a trusted DUI defense lawyer. We’re proud to serve clients across Los Angeles, Compton, Torrance, Van Nuys, and Norwalk, California.