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Understanding your right to refuse field sobriety tests in California

May 18, 2023 | DUI

Navigating the legal landscape concerning DUIs and field sobriety tests can be complex. In California, a key aspect to understand is your right to refuse to participate in field sobriety tests.

Learn more about the implications of refusing to undertake these tests.

Your right to refuse field sobriety tests

In California, you indeed have the right to refuse field sobriety tests. These tests are not mandatory, and your refusal cannot serve as evidence of guilt in a court of law. It is important to note, however, that this right applies specifically to field sobriety tests and not to chemical tests.

Implications of refusal

Refusing to take a field sobriety test does not mean you will avoid a DUI charge. Police officers can still arrest you based on other observable signs of impairment, such as erratic driving, slurred speech or the smell of alcohol. Furthermore, post-arrest, you are legally obligated to submit to a chemical test (breath or blood) under California’s implied consent law.

Consequences of refusal

While the court cannot use your refusal to take a field sobriety test against you, refusing a chemical test can result in severe penalties. These penalties include a one-year suspension of your driving privileges for a first offense and even longer suspensions for subsequent offenses. It is necessary to differentiate between the right to refuse field sobriety tests and the requirement to take chemical tests post-arrest.

Legal protections in California

California law provides robust protections to its citizens. The right to refuse a field sobriety test stems from the understanding that these tests can be subjective and do not always accurately reflect a person’s level of impairment. The law takes into consideration that various factors such as medical conditions, fatigue or nervousness can affect the results of these tests.

While you have the right to refuse field sobriety tests, it does not immunize you against DUI charges. Understanding your rights and the consequences can help you make better choices about these tests.