Should I refuse to complete the Field Sobriety Tests?

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October 04, 2016

INTRODUCTION

Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) are standardized tests used by police to establish probable cause to arrest a DUI suspect. The point of this article is not to explain FST Administration or Defenses, but to answer a common question: Should I do the field sobriety tests?

IN MOST CIRCUMSTANCES, YOU SHOULD REFUSE TO DO FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS

In most circumstances, it is probably wise to refuse to complete FSTs. FSTs are completely voluntary, and there is no punishment for refusing to complete them. On top of that, FSTs are extremely flawed both in their administration and interpretation. By completing the FSTs, you run the risk of having innocent mistakes made on the tests interpreted as signs that you are under the influence. You also increase the likelihood of being arrested, as “poor” FST performance often supplies the officers’ probable cause to arrest DUI suspects.

HOWEVER, REFUSING TO BLOW INTO THE PRELIMINARY ALCOHOL SCREENING DEVICE MAY UNDERCUT A RISING ALCOHOL DEFENSE

The Preliminary Alcohol Screening Device (PAS), AKA a “breathalyzer,” is also considered a FST. The PAS is typically administered right before a suspect is arrested. It is important to remember, however, that the PAS is optional, just like all the other FSTs.

PAS results are often helpful when mounting a Rising Alcohol Defense at trial. In short, PAS results that are lower than the subsequent chemical test results help a DUI defense attorney argue that the defendant’s BAC was rising, and thus could have been lower than the legal limit at the time of driving. However, if there are no PAS results, it may be harder to make this argument.

CONCLUSION

Much like many other DUI defense questions, there truly is no “correct” answer. In most circumstances, it’s in the DUI suspect’s interest to refuse to do the FSTs. FST “results” are used at trial by the District Attorney to prove that a defendant’s BAC was at or above .08 or more at the time of driving. As previously stated, this is problematic because these tests often lead to “false positives” when detecting intoxication.



©NorCal Criminal Defense 2016