Field Sobriety Tests in California DUI

An officer on the street is always on the lookout for driving under the influence. The officer is typically looking for signs of intoxication from the driver. The first things that the officer looks for are how the suspect is driving- is the suspect swerving, does the vehicle have the headlights on, is the suspect driving the speed limit, and he will also look to see if the vehicle is staying within its lanes. Once the officer has pulled the vehicle, the officer will look for other signs of intoxication- does the suspect have bloodshot eyes, are the suspect’s eyes watery, does the suspect have slurred speech, is there a smell of alcohol coming from the suspect, and are there any alcohol containers in the vehicle. If the officer suspects that someone is driving under the influence, and he has established reasonable suspicion, the officer may order the suspect out of the vehicle to perform field sobriety tests. These tests are extremely subjective and are designed to be failed. It is important to note that the field sobriety tests are optional and nobody is required to submit to them. However, the officer will not tell you that the tests are optional.
If you do not refuse to take the field sobriety tests, three main tests make up the standardised field sobriety tests. Those three tests are:

  1. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
  2. Walk-and-Turn
  3. One-leg Stand

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

HGN is an involuntary jerking of the eye which naturally occurs as the eyes move from side to side inside of the eye socket. This happens when the eyes rotate at high peripheral angles. When somebody has been drinking alcohol and is otherwise impaired, nystagmus is extraordinarily exaggerated and occurs at fewer angles than in somebody that is not intoxicated. Officers look to determine if a person can smoothly track a moving object with their eyes from side to side. A person impaired by alcohol will also not be able to seamlessly track a moving object with their eyes from side to side. More specifically, the officer will be looking for three things:

  • If the eyes cannot follow an object horizontally.
  • If the jerking is distinct when the eyes are at their maximum deviation.
  • If the jerking occurs within 45 degrees of the centre of the eye.

If the police officer notices 4 or more clues between both of the suspect’s eyes, it is likely that the suspect has a blood alcohol level of 0.10 or more. The test is designed to determine if a suspect has a blood alcohol content of 0.10 or greater approximately 77% of the time.

Walk and Turn Test

Officers may also make the suspect do the walk and turn test. This is where the officer makes the suspect walk several steps in a straight line heel to toe while counting. After the suspect has taken the number of steps requested, they must then turn on one foot and return to where the test started. The officer will also be looking for several things to indicate that the suspect is under the influence:

  • If the suspect can’t keep their balance when they listen to the instructions.
  • The suspect begins to perform the test before the officer finishes their instructions.
  • If the suspect stops while walking the line to regain their balance.
  • If the suspect does not touch heel-to-toe with every single step.
  • If the suspect has to use their arms for balance.
  • If the suspect loses their balance while turning.
  • If the suspect takes the incorrect number of steps or forgets what number to count up to.

Officers understand that 68% of suspects that exhibit 2 or more of the above indicators typically have a blood alcohol level of 0.10 or higher.

One Leg Stand

The last test that I will write about is the one leg stand. This is where the officer will tell the suspect to stand with one foot raised around 6 inches from the ground and to count until the officer says the suspect to put their foot down. The officer typically times this test and stops the test at 30 seconds. The officer is attempting to see how close to 30 seconds the suspect was able to count. There are also signs that the officer is looking for with the one leg stand:

  • If the suspect is swaying back and forth while balancing on one foot.
  • If the suspect is using their arms for balance.
  • If the suspect is forced to hop to maintain their balance.
  • If the suspect is putting their foot down during the test.

Officers understand that 65% of suspects who show 2 or more of the above symptoms have a blood alcohol content of 0.10 or more. The more indicators that the officers pick up, the more persuasive the officer’s testimony will be in court.

The embarrassment from the roadside field sobriety tests given to suspected drunk drivers quickly gives way to the terrible reality of handcuffs, and the fear of the consequences that could follow a California DUI conviction, like the possibility of being sent back to jail for even a minute, or losing your California driver’s license for months, or even years. The attorneys at Ginny Walia Law Offices understand how you feel. More importantly, we know how to cushion or avoid the harsh consequences of a DUI arrest.

If you have been arrested for California DUI / DWI, it is vital that you act quickly to protect your driver’s license. You have only 10 days from the date of arrest to request a DUI DMV Administrative Per Se (APS) hearing with the California DMV.

DUI Punishments in California

When a driver in California is charged with a DUI, they are being charged with the crime of driving under the influence of alcohol. Since there is such a high potential for damage to the charged driver, other people that the driver may be around and property that could potentially be harmed by a drunk driver, the penalties for being convicted of this crime are swift, detailed and expensive. They are in fact life-altering but can be avoided if the conviction is avoided or if the case is dismissed based on some technical detail that the average citizen may not be aware of.

Those who are convicted of a DUI can serve anywhere from 96 hours to 6 months in jail for the punishment for first DUI in California. They can also look forward to a minimum of a mandatory 6 months of driver’s license suspension as the state of California takes the stance that driving is a privilege, not a right and as such, must be done responsibly. To avoid conviction, the driver will have to prove that they are a responsible driver an innocent of all charges, something that is often a daunting task.

To be sure that the driver understands his or her responsibilities as a driver and the impact that a DUI has, the driver will also be required to complete a DUI program. If they do manage to get a restricted license that enables them to drive to and from work, something that is entirely dependent on the will of the judge overseeing the case, it’s quite likely that the driver will need to install an Ignition Interlock Device. This device will prevent the vehicle from starting should the driver have alcohol on their breath. DUI under 21 California punishment is totally different from the one we are talking about.

Even in the judge is feeling generous enough to allow the driver to have a restricted license and even if the driver can afford to have the Ignition Interlock Device installed on their vehicle after they pay to have the vehicle released from impound, there is still the matter of insurance. Any driver who has been convicted of a DUI in the state of California must carry California SR-22 insurance. This is a high-risk form of insurance that is quite costly.

While all of the above DUI punishments in California and expenses are dealt with, the driver will still have to pay a $1,000-$1,600 fine. Keep in mind that the California DUI punishments listed above only apply to first offenders. Also, keep in mind that first offenders may do well to provide the proper evidence that will convince a judge that they have been an ideal citizen up until the arrest and possibly point out any flaws in the procedure of the arrest.

Subsequent offenders will find that the fines, incarceration time and license suspension times will all increase with each offense. Of course, convicted drivers may be successful enough in their legal pleas to be granted a suspended sentence. This only means that the driver must avoid arrest for any other charge, pay the fines and meet all of the other requirements. Failure to do so will result in the implementation of the full length of the original sentence.

DUI Charge in San Diego: Jail Sentence Alternatives

So you’ve been charged with drunk driving in San Diego, and it looks like the court might order you to go to jail. However, did you know that there are alternatives to going to jail? Depending on your previous DUI or criminal record, your San Diego DUI lawyer may be able to work it out so that you may not have to spend consecutive days and nights in jail. Here are just some of the jail sentence alternatives available in San Diego:

1. Go to jail on the weekends only – This is known as, of course, “Weekend Jail.” It’s also known as “City Jail,” and some police departments offer this type of program in which participants check themselves in and stay in jail during the weekend. This makes it easy for the offender to go to work during the week.

2. Alcohol or drug rehabilitation – As we’ve seen time and time again, jail does not fix the problem for many drunk driving offenders – especially those who are repeat offenders. Attending an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program can help to address those underlying psychological or emotional issues related to their addictions.

3. House Arrest – The offender is ordered to wear an electronic monitoring device such as an ankle bracelet to ensure that they remain in the vicinity of their residence. Sometimes the wearer can attend school or go to work. However, they must be back home at a particular time.

4. Sober Living Home – This is a type of living situation where everyone assigned to live in the home has to work on combating their problems with alcoholism or drug addiction. Most of the time the residents in a sober living home have to take 12-step classes or have one-and-one time with a rehab counselor.

5. Work Release – The offender works at a site chosen by the Probation Department or the court. They work there during the day but can go home at night to sleep.

6. Work Furlough – The offender works their regular job during the day, but they have to go to a dormitory-type facility to sleep at night.

Make sure to hire an experienced DUI lawyer in San Diego who is familiar with these types of programs. Your lawyer can assess which jail alternative would probably be the optimal choice for your particular case. The laws are different for every state, so it’s best to consult with your lawyer.

California DUI Penalties and Information

California does not take driving under the influence lightly, and throughout the past several years this state has created numerous Assembly Bills to make the punishment for driving while drunk severe. You will be arrested and charged with a DUI if you are caught driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher; however, if you’re under 21, you will be charged if your BAC is 0.01% or higher. Below you will find all of the current information regarding California DUI penalties.

California DUI First Offense:

If you are charged and convicted of a DUI, and it is your first one, then you can expect to spend a minimum of 96 hours in jail and maximum jail time of six months. You can also plan your driver’s license to be suspended for a period of at least six months, and you may also be required to pay a fine ranging from $1,000 to $1,600.

Convicted of a DUI for the first time also required you to complete a DUI Program and you will also be required to apply for a California SR22 Insurance once your driver’s license is reinstated. It is important to note, that the judge may order an Ignition Interlock Device to be installed in your vehicle following your license suspension.

California DUI Second Offense:

Being charged for a DUI a second time may require you to spend up to one year in jail, or a minimum of 90 days. You will also be required to pay a fine that may range from $1,000 to $1,900, and your driver’s license may be suspended for a period of two years. You will also be required to obtain individual California SR22 Insurance once you can drive again, and the judge may need you to register with a Restricted Driver License.

California DUI Third Offense:

Having a third DUI conviction on your record is a serious offense. The state of California requires those who have three DUI’s on their album to spend 120 days to one year in jail and have your license suspended for three years. You will also face a fine that ranges from $1,000 to $2,000, and you will be required to have an Ignition Interlock Device installed in your vehicle.

Perhaps one of the worst penalties associated with a third DUI offense is the Designation of a Habitual Offender, which does not look well on background checks for employment or apartments.

California DUI Fourth Offense:

Having a fourth DUI offense in California requires you to spend 180 days to one year in jail and have your license suspended for four years. You will also be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device within your vehicle once your driving privileges are restored. You must also pay a fine that ranges from $1,000 to $3,000, and you must also complete a DUI program, which is assigned by the courts.