Field Sobriety Tests in DUI Cases
Prior to arresting a suspect for DUI in California, the police normally have the individual perform a series of balance and coordination tests commonly known as field sobriety tests. The tests are intended to assist the officer in determining whether a person is impaired through drugs or alcohol so that they can be lawfully arrested. The tests are voluntary although the police rarely advise the suspect of this fact and normally give the impression that there is no choice but to attempt them.
There is no objective standard of pass or fail. Performance is assessed based on the officer's impressions on what the suspect does right and wrong. Ability to follow directions is considered along with balance and coordination.
The final test is often a preliminary alcohol screening device, which is a hand held breath machine. This test is also voluntary. The results of the test can be damaging to the prospects of avoiding a conviction for DUI and it is recommended that DUI suspects should decline the test. The obligation to submit to a breath or blood test arises only after a lawful arrest and at that point a suspect should choose to submit to a test as the penalties for refusal are greater.
Field Sobriety Tests are difficult to perform even in perfect conditions and when alcohol free. When assessing performance, factors to consider include medical and physical health, the location of the tests and whether the surface is even, the weather, time of day and possible fatigue, lighting and clarity of police instructions.