Law enforcement officers in the San Joaquin Valley, including Fresno, Tulare, Madera and Kings Counties use a variety of testing methods in order to evaluate the level of intoxication of a driver suspected of driving under the influence (DUI).
Generally, if a person is stopped in Fresno or the surrounding areas, a law enforcement officer will administer both field sobriety tests (FSTs) and chemical tests that are designed to determine whether you are under the influence and whether your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is a .08 or more. If the BAC level is at 0.08 percent or greater that person will be arrested on charges of DUI.
Chemical testing and California DUI
Chemical tests allow for the investigating officer to take a sample of bodily fluids, such as breath and blood, from an individual in order to calculate the driver's BAC. Chemical tests allow for a more exact determination of the BAC level of a person, but these tests are not always correct. Because chemical tests can provide incorrect results, Fresno law enforcement officers will also use FSTs to assess the level of intoxication of a person.
Walk-and-turn procedures in Fresno
The walk-and-turn test is considered to be a divided attention test that can be performed by most persons who are not impaired. The test requires that a suspect listen and follow instructions during the performance of simple physical movements. Impaired persons may have trouble with tasks that require their attention to be divided between simple mental and physical exercises.
In the walk-and-turn test, a person will be directed to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line. After taking the steps, a person must turn on one foot and return in the same manner in the opposite direction. The examiner will look for eight indicators of impairment:
- if the suspect cannot keep balance while listening to the instructions,
- begins before the instructions are finished,
- stops while walking to regain balance,
- does not touch heel-to-toe,
- steps off the line,
- uses arms to balance,
- makes an improper turn, or
- takes an incorrect number of steps.
Research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has shown that 79 percent of individuals who exhibit two or more indicators during performance of the test will have a BAC level of 0.08 percent or greater.
A number of variables can cause a driver to make any number of mistakes during the evaluation whether or not he has consumed any alcohol. Oftentimes, these traffic stops are made during late night or early morning hours when it is dark. Also, most people are anxious or nervous when they are stopped by law enforcement officers, regardless whether or not they have been consuming alcohol. Therefore, a person may be distracted by anxiety while attempting to perform the test. Also, the officer does not know how a person would perform the test if they were sober and and performing the test under perfect conditions, therefore any mistake will be attributed to alcohol.
Variables can lead to inaccurate BAC resultsIt should also be pointed out that simple considerations such as bad weather or medical conditions can cause an individual to perform poorly on the examination. The end result could be that the officer will conclude that the driver has been drinking and should be arrested for DUI. As an example, a person suffering from an inner ear infection may have trouble balancing, thus have trouble walking a straight line at night under low-light conditions. Also, the ground upon which the test is conducted on could be uneven or unpaved, thus the completion of an error-free test will be difficult.
Should you reach out to a defense attorney?
If you are facing charges related to the offense DUI in the San Joaquin Valley, including Kings County, Madera County and Tulare County, do not think that your only choice is to plead guilty. Take a moment to contact Terry A. Wapner and schedule a consultation in order to discuss the facts of your case and be advised of your options.