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The drunk driving tests that many sober people fail

Many California drivers think they automatically have to comply if a police officer asks them to do something during a traffic stop. While there are certain requests you should immediately obey, such as exiting your vehicle if a patrol officer asks you to do so, there are also requests you can refuse without any legal or administrative repercussion.  

Field sobriety tests fall under that category. Do you know that you do not have to submit to such tests, even if a police officer has detained you outside of your vehicle? There are three typical tests that most California police officers use to determine if they have probable cause to make a suspected drunk driving arrest. The problem is that the tests are not reliable, and you might fail one even if you're sober.  

Remember these facts 

If you're driving along a California roadway and a cop pulls you over, it's understandable that you might feel nervous or worried about what you may or may not have done. The following information pertains to field sobriety tests, which may apply to your situation if the police officer who stopped you thinks you are intoxicated or otherwise impaired:  

  • The walk-and-turn test: This is the test most drivers are familiar with. A police officer who asks you to take this test wants to observe how well you follow directions and how steady your gait is when you walk a straight line. Walking is one thing, but walking with the heel of one foot at the toes of the other while your arms are held at shoulder length can be quite tricky, even if you did not consume alcohol beforehand. 
  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus test: Every person has a maximum peripheral vision point, and if the eyes are tracking an object left to right or up and down, they will jerk erratically when they reach that point. If you are intoxicated, your eyes may jerk even before they reach that point, which is what a police officer is watching for if you take this test. 
  • The one-leg stand test: When you have your arms at your sides and one of your feet held six inches off the ground, a police officer can check your balance. This test also often requires that you count out loud by 1,000's while you balance; if you slur your numbers, miss a number, sway, put your foot down or try to extend your arms to help you balance, your next trip might be straight to the nearest county jail.  

You may have a past injury that would impede your ability to perform such tests well. The problem is that you might be perfectly sober, but if the police officer administering the test fails you, it constitutes probable cause to arrest you for suspected drunk driving. You can refuse to submit to field sobriety tests although many drivers think it's best to cooperate to avoid problems down the line.  

Know how to protect your rights 

If someone tells you that you are legally obligated to take a field sobriety test, it is simply not true. In fact, a police officer can violate your rights in several ways, depending on what he or she says and does during a traffic stop or while taking you into custody. You can request legal representation to help you protect your rights as well as to help you make informed decisions as you navigate the criminal justice system.

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