On any given day in Fresno County, members of the Fresno Police Department, Clovis Police Department and California Highway Patrol will be patrolling the streets in an attempt to find individuals suspected of driving under the influence. More often than not the law enforcement officer making the detention in Fresno County will ask the suspected individual to perform field sobriety tests. While the officer will make it appear that the field sobriety tests are mandatory, they are not. In fact, an individual detained on suspicion of driving under the influence in Fresno County has the right not to submit to field sobriety test(s). However, the individual, if arrested, should not confuse this with his or her obligation to submit to a chemical test. If an individual refuses to submit to a chemical test, he or she faces the real risk of losing their license for a year or longer.
If detained on suspicion of suspicion of driving under the influence in Fresno County, one of the field sobriety tests that the detaining officer may ask the individual to perform is the walk-and-turn test. The walk-and-turn test is one of three standardized tests recognized by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration. The walk-and-turn test should be broken down into two stages; the instructions stage, and the demonstrations stage. If you were detained or arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in Fresno California, you should verify that the officer who performed the test did so correctly.
There are five instructions that should be provided to the individual detained on suspicion of driving under the influence in Fresno County.
- Place your left foot on the line. (Demonstrate)
- Place your right foot on the line ahead of the left foot, with the heel of right foot against toe of left foot. (Demonstrate)
- Place your arms at your sides. (Demonstrate)
- Maintain this position until I have completed the instructions. Do not start to walk until told to do so.
- Do you understand the instructions so far?
If you were detained or arrested in Fresno, California on suspicion of driving under the influence and ordered to perform the walk-and-turn test those are the instructions that you were required to be provided. If you were not, it will impact the officer’s observations on the test.
Demonstrations and Instructions for the Walking Stage
- When I tell you to start, take nine heel-to-toe steps, turn, and take nine heel-to-toe steps back. (Demonstrate)
- When you turn, keep the front foot on the line, and turn by taking a series of small steps with the other foot, like this. (Demonstrate)
- While you are walking, keep your arms at your sides, watch your feet at all times, and count your steps out loud.
- Once you start walking, don’t stop until you have completed the test.
- Do you understand the instructions?
- Begin, and county your first step from the heel-to-toe position as “one.”
The above instructions should have been provided to you if you were detained on suspicion of driving under the influence in Fresno. If arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in Fresno, you should verify with a Fresno DUI attorney that the test was properly performed.
The following eight clues are what the arresting officer should be looking for when properly administering the test. Unfortunately, most officers do not provide the correct instructions and have little, if any, idea of what clues to look for. To make it easier to arrest individuals on suspicion of driving under the influence the arresting agencies have made forms that identify all the clues that the officer should observe.
- Cannot keep balance while listening to instructions.
- Starts before the instructions are finished.
- Stops while walking.
- Does not touch heel-to-toe.
- The suspect steps so that one foot is entirely off the line.
- Uses arms to balance.
- Improper turn.
- Incorrect number of steps.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, if an individual exhibits two or more clues on the test his BAC is likely greater than .10%. The above criteria apply to approximately 68% of individuals.
While the tests may provide useful information if properly performed, the tests are only applicable if the tests are administered in the prescribed manner. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also recognizes that if the standardized elements are changed, the validity of the tests is compromised.
If you were arrested in Fresno on suspicion of driving under the influence, you should look to see if the field sobriety test was properly administered. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Did the officer provide you with the proper instructions?
- Did the officer demonstrate the test?
- Did the officer have you perform the test on a flat surface?
- Did the officer have you perform the test in a well lit area?
If you were not able to answer all of the questions with a “yes,” then it is highly likely that the test was not performed properly. In this instance, you should contact an experienced Fresno Criminal Defense Attorney as soon immediately. A Fresno Criminal Defense Attorney who handles driving under the influence cases (DUI) can provide you with the necessary information to assist you with challenging your DUI arrest in court.
If you would like to meet with an experienced Fresno Criminal Defense Attorney, please contact our office today.