DUI Tests and Your Rights
Jan. 11, 2022
A police officer can pull over a driver who is suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol if they have probable cause to stop the vehicle. Violations of traffic rules such as speeding or weaving in and out of lanes could establish probable cause for the stop.
During the traffic stop, the officer will make observations to determine if the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If the driver is suspected of DUI, the officer can order a sobriety or blood test. The purpose of these tests is to determine the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC).
Unfortunately, many Californians do not understand their rights regarding DUI tests. If you were charged with DUI, reach out to our attorneys at Underwood Law Firm. Our DUI defense attorneys assist individuals facing drunk driving charges in Bakersfield, Lamont, and throughout Kern County in California.
Understanding Implied Consent in California
Under the implied consent law in California, all drivers are legally required to submit to chemical testing as long as they were lawfully arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Chemical testing is used to determine the amount of alcohol or drugs in the driver’s system. A police officer makes a lawful arrest when they have probable cause to believe that a motorist is impaired by alcohol or drugs.
All drivers who operate motor vehicles on public roadways have given their consent to chemical testing. Since all Californian drivers are presumed to have given their consent to submit to chemical testing, refusal to take a blood alcohol test carries negative consequences.
Blood Alcohol Test vs. Sobriety Test
Many people do not understand the difference between blood alcohol tests and sobriety tests. When a police officer stops a motorist who shows signs of intoxication, they are likely to ask the driver to step out of the vehicle to perform a field sobriety test. If the motorist gets arrested, they can be asked to take a blood alcohol test.
The purpose of field sobriety tests is to help law enforcement develop probable cause for arrest. The results of sobriety tests are not an accurate indicator of impairment. If the police rely on the results of a field sobriety test to hold a driver responsible for driving under the influence of alcohol, the sobriety test results could be challenged and deemed inadmissible.
Blood alcohol tests, on the other hand, can accurately show the amount of alcohol in the motorist’s system. However, under certain circumstances, it may be possible to challenge the results of a blood test. Blood alcohol tests are required under the implied consent law in California, while field sobriety tests do not apply to the law.
Types of Sobriety Tests
The first type of DUI testing that a motorist may encounter when they are stopped by law enforcement is a field sobriety test. In California, all sobriety tests are voluntary. It means that drivers can refuse to take a sobriety test without negative consequences. There are three main types of sobriety tests that are widely used by police officers in California:
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN). The term refers to the involuntary jerking of the eyeballs. It is a standardized sobriety test that determines if the driver had too much to drink. The rapid jerking of the eyes from one side to the other is enhanced by alcohol.
Walk and turn test. With this test, a police officer asks a person who is suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol to take nine steps along a straight line, then turn on one foot, and walk in the opposite direction.
One-leg stand. When administering the test, a police officer asks a driver to lift one leg and stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground. The suspect must count aloud while balancing on one foot.
Consequences of Refusal
In California, drivers can refuse a field sobriety test without facing any penalties. Sobriety tests are not mandatory in California. The implied consent law in California does not apply to sobriety tests, which means drivers are not required to take the test.
As for blood alcohol tests, the refusal carries negative consequences. A driver who refuses to take a blood alcohol test will face harsh penalties because of the implied consent law in California. In addition, the refusal can be used by the prosecutor in the DUI case to prove guilt.
Don’t Risk Your Future. Get the Legal Guidance You Need.
If you were arrested for or charged with drunk driving in California, it’s important to seek legal counsel to understand your defense options. It is not too late to hire a lawyer, even if you failed a DUI test. In some cases, the results of field sobriety, breathalyzer, and blood alcohol tests may be inadmissible in court. As experienced DUI defense attorneys in Bakersfield, California, our team at Underwood Law Firm is dedicated to protecting the rights of Californians facing drunk driving charges. Receive a consultation with our attorneys to start fighting your DUI charges.