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Understanding California field sobriety tests

Almost every driver in California knows about the existence of field sobriety tests. What you might not know is that these tests are not 100 percent accurate. In most cases, a field sobriety test is far less reliable than tests that check for a driver's blood alcohol concentration via science. These include breathalyzer tests and blood tests.

However, most people can agree that a police officer conducting a possible DUI stop needs at least some indication that the driver may be intoxicated. The problem comes from the different ways people respond to a field test. Human beings are unique individuals and do not all react the same way in a stressful situation. Being stopped and tested for drunk driving is indeed a stressful situation.

A typical field sobriety test consists of three parts: a gaze test, a balance test and a walk-and-turn test. In the horizontal gaze test, police officers look for an involuntary jerking of the eye when a driver is asked to look to one side or the other. This jerking is said to be exaggerated in those who are intoxicated.

In the balance test, the police instruct the driver to stand on one leg for 30 seconds. If the officer sees that the driver cannot do so for whatever reason, the driver could be arrested for DUI.

During the walk-and-turn test, drivers must take nine steps in a straight line, turn around on one foot and come back in the same way. The police are looking for the driver's ability to follow directions while his or her attention is divided. Obviously, if a driver fails to perform this test to the officer's satisfaction, an arrest may occur.

As stated earlier, not everyone will respond to these tests the same way. Logically, this means that field sobriety tests are not always a reliable indicator of a person's sobriety. If you have failed a field sobriety test and want to take action, consider talking with an attorney experienced in building an effective DUI defense.

Source: FindLaw, "Field Sobriety Tests," accessed Dec. 06, 2016

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