Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are a series of physical tests which individuals are made to perform to help a police officer obtain probable cause for a DUI arrest. They are designed to test coordination, divided attention, and balance.
However, these tests are often unreliable and highly subjective. Even if a person hasn’t consumed alcohol before performing FSTs, they are still very difficult to pass.
So is it illegal to refuse a field sobriety test?
The simple answer is “No!”
Generally speaking, you are not legally required to take these tests, no matter how many times an officer may ask you to do so. Keep in mind, the officer who stopped your car won’t tell you this and will use the test results to justify your arrest and build evidence to be used against you in court and at the DMV.
In California, other than questions about your identity such as your driver’s license and registration, you are not required to make any potentially incriminating admissions or statements to a police officer. Avoid letting the officer check your eyes and do not agree to take FSTs. Remain polite and say, “on the advice of my legal counsel, I elect not to participate in any field sobriety test.”
Remember, doing this still may not stop the officer from arresting you for a DUI if he or she believes there is enough probable cause that you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In the event of your arrest, you are required to submit to a breath or blood chemical test according to California’s implied consent law. Refusing a mandatory breath or blood test will result in automatic suspension of your driver’s license.