You’ve been pulled over, and the police officer says that they suspect you’ve been drinking. They would like you to perform an immediate sobriety test so that they can determine if you’re officially driving while under the influence. At this point, some people meekly comply. Other people wonder if they have the right to refuse to take the sobriety test.
Strictly speaking, in California, you do have a legal right to refuse to perform a field sobriety test, but doing so may not be in your best interest. The problem with refusing to take the field sobriety test is that you could actually be giving the officer an excuse to arrest you so that they can perform a chemical test. In some cases, this is a good situation.
For example, if it’s been a long while since your last drink, it’s possible that your BAC will have decreased by the time the chemical test is administered, though this is rare. What is far more common is that someone who was not completely over the legal limit and who could have possibly passed a field sobriety test has more for the alcohol to be absorbed by the blood so that by the time the chemical test is administered, they have a significantly higher BAC than they did when they were originally pulled over.
It is worth noting that you are allowed to refuse to take a chemical sobriety test in California, but this doesn’t usually do any good. By refusing to take the chemical test, you can be held in jail for a full forty-eight hours while you’re behavior is observed. You will also lose your driving privileges for a full year. It’s likely you’ll still be tried for DUI, and if you’re convicted, the sentence may be worse than what you’d have received had you simply submitted to the chemical test.
While the desire to refuse to take a sobriety test when you’re pulled over is perfectly natural, when all is said and done, it’s usually in your best interest to submit to the test.