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Roadside DUI Tests: Know Your Rights

By Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney on July 17, 2020

Everyone gets pulled over at one point or another in their life. Sometimes these interactions with police officers end with just a light warning. Other times, you may be asked to perform roadside sobriety tests, in order to determine if you have driven while over the legal blood alcohol level. These tests can feel embarrassing and evasive. Knowing your roadside rights may just help you avoid an uncomfortable situation.

Common Roadside Tests

After being pulled over for a suspected DUI, there are several tests the officer may try to go through in order to determine if you are truly driving while drunk. These tests may seem a little silly, and you’ve likely seen a sitcom character be forced to go through on or two on TV, but they are incredibly effective at helping an officer determine if you are too intoxicated to drive.

Walk and turn: This test works exactly as it sounds. The officer will ask you to walk a straight line, heel-to-toe, then turn around, and walk a straight line back. While it may sound easy, alcohol impacts your ability to balance, as well as your perception of your surroundings. What may seem like a straight line to you, could clearly be crooked or messy to the officer.

One leg stand: Again, this test goes about how you would expect. The officer will ask you to stand on one leg, with the foot you’re not using about six inches off the ground, while you count out loud starting with a thousand. You count until the officer instructs you to stop and put your foot down. If you are drunk, it will be difficult for you to balance. You will probably sway, flail your arms, or fall altogether.

Horizontal gaze nystagmus test: The horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test involves an officer looking at the movement of your eyes. If you are driving in dark conditions, such as at night, the officer will likely have to shine a light in your eyes in order to properly observe them. HGN refers to the involuntary jerking of your eyes when you look to the side. While everyone experiences at least slight levels of HGN, alcohol can make the jerking more pronounced.

Breathalyzer: The breathalyzer is a small, portable device that can detect your blood alcohol content just from your breath. The officer may not bother with this test if you pass one of the other ones, but if they strongly suspect you are above the legal limit, they will use the breathalyzer to determine by how much.

Refusing A Test in California

After being pulled over and asked to step out of your vehicle and preform a roadside test, you may wonder, “Do I have to do this?” Well, when it comes to tests such as the one leg stand and the walk and turn, the answer is no. You are not under any legal obligation perform these tests, no matter how many times the officer asks you to.

However, your refusal does not mean the officer cannot arrest you for a DUI, as there may still be other evidence of alcohol consumption, such as the smell of your breath, empty or open alcohol containers in the car, or if your eyes are bloodshot.

Furthermore, chemical tests, such as the breathalyzer, cannot be legally refused. Owning a license, which is legally required to drive, means that you have submitted implied consent to certain tests asked by an officer. Refusing these tests can result in you losing your license as well as a drastic increase in your insurance rates.

Being arrested with a DUI can feel like the end of the world. You may have to face a legal battle in court, will not be allowed to drive, and even the media may get involved, making sure that all of your neighbors know what happened. But that is exactly why it is so important to reach out to an experienced Los Angeles drunk driving defense attorney in regards to getting the best legal help as possible. If you are facing DUI charges, contact Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP at (213) 688-0460 or reach out to us online.

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