Standard Field Sobriety Tests

Refusal Of Sobriety Tests

There are three types of sobriety tests used by law enforcement to determine if a person is intoxicated while driving.
sobriety test

1. Chemical Test

  • Once you are arrested, you will be asked to submit to a chemical test of your breath under California's implied consent law.
  • Refusal to submit to a breath test could result in DMV suspension of your drivers license and additional criminal penalties.
  • Examples:
    • Breathalyzer or Intoxilyzer;
    • Blood sample
    • Urine sample

2. Preliminary Alcohol Screening Test (PAS)

  • You may refuse this test if you are over 21 and not on DUI or other probation.
  • Example:
    • Breathalyzer

3. Standard Field Sobriety Tests (FST)

  • Anyone may refuse all field sobriety tests
  • Examples:
    • One-leg stand
    • Walk and turn
    • Horizontal gaze

sobriety test attorney
A suspected drunk driver performs a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test.

Chemical Test

These tests measure the amount of alcohol in your blood. The three tests are breath, blood, and urine. In California, failure to submit to chemical test could result in additional criminal penalties and suspension of your license by the DMV.

Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS)

This test estimates the amount of alcohol in your blood (BAC) by measuring the amount of alcohol in air exhaled from deep within the lungs. Typically it is performed using a hand-held breathalyzer.

sobriety tests law
A peace officer conducts the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.

Field Sobriety Tests

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: This tests the involuntary jerking of the eye that occurs naturally when the eye gazes to the side. This "nystagmus" is exaggerated when someone is impaired by alcohol.

Walk and Turn: This tests your balance and your ability to complete tasks with divided attention. This is administered by requiring the suspect to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line; turn on one foot; and then return in the same manner in the opposite direction.

One-Leg Stand: This tests your balance while standing on one foot. One foot is held about six inches off the ground while counting to 30. Swaying while balancing, using arms to balance, hopping or putting the foot down indicate possible impairment.

sobriety test one leg stand
A volunteer demonstrates the one leg stand test.

Refusal To Answer Questions

You may refuse to answer law enforcement questions provided it does not violate your probation or parole. The purpose of law enforcement questions is to get you to admit to drunk driving.

You can politely tell law enforcement you do not want to answer any questions and assert your 5th Amendment right to remain silent.

Typical questions include:

  • Have you been drinking?
  • Where are you driving from?
  • When was your last drink?
  • When did you last sleep?
  • Are you on any medication?