Can I Get a DUI if I Pass a Sobriety Test but Fail a Breathalyzer Test?

You’ve had a few drinks one night when you see the red and blue lights of a police car in your rearview mirror. What happens next can have enormous consequences for your finances, your future, and even your freedom as the police officer approaches and gathers evidence, to the extent any exists, of whether you have violated California state laws against drinking and driving. A DUI conviction in California can mean jail time, thousands of dollars in fines and court costs, and perhaps much more financial damage in the form of increased insurance rates. But, before or all that occurs, the police and prosecutors will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you violated the criminal DUI laws. Two common ways to do that are a field sobriety test and a breathalyzer test, but what happens if you pass one but fail the other? A DUI lawyer explains below.

Either a Field Sobriety or Breathalyzer Test Can Prove Your Guilt

Let’s start off by talking about the difference between the field sobriety test and breathalyzer test. With a field sobriety test, the police officer will ask you to perform physical acts which will be used to judge your physical inebriation. As breathalyzers only rose to prominence to in the 1970s, field sobriety tests have long been used to evaluate a person’s impairment due to alochol, and common tests include asking a person to balance on one foot, walk heel-to-toe in a straight line, or to follow an object with their eyes. The officer’s own observations of the person’s performance on these tests will be the primary evidence of inebriation as opposed to a specific readout of blood alcohol level.  

With a breathalyzer test, the police will have the suspect blow into a breathalyzer which will measure the person’s blood alcohol content (BAC). For most drivers, a blood alcohol content of .08% or above will mean that they have violated the California DUI laws, as the laws specifically state that anyone driving with that BAC or above is in violation of the law. That said, even those who score below that level of BAC can be found guilty of a DUI if there is enough evidence that the driver was impaired by alcohol in his or her driving.

Fighting Back Against Either DUI Test

What this means is that a person who “passes” a field sobriety test but fails a breathalyzer test can be charged and convicted of a DUI in California. The opposite is true as well — a person who “fails” a field sobriety test but scores less than a .08% on a breathalyzer test can also be charged with a DUI if the officer thinks there is sufficient evidence from the sobriety test to show that the driver was impaired.

But neither a “failed” field sobriety test nor a breathalyzer test needs to be the end of the line for a person facing a DUI charge. When you work with an experienced California criminal defense attorney, your attorney can fully examine the circumstances of your stop and arrest to determine whether there are any grounds for challenging your conviction. Such grounds can include:

  • Challenging the legality of the stop
  • Arguing that the arresting officer failed to follow proper procedure
  • Challenging the methods used in the field sobriety test
  • Calling into question the breathalyzer methods or machinery
  • Questioning the sufficiency of the evidence against you
  • All other relevant arguments and strategies

Contact a Los Angeles DUI Attorney Today

At the Law Offices of Omar Gastelum and Associates, PLC, in Southern California, our DUI attorneys are dedicated to doing whatever it takes to protect your freedom, and to keep your driving record clean while reducing the impact of a DUI charge on your life and finances. We provide legal assistance in English, Spanish, Farsi, Korean, and Arabic. Contact our offices today to schedule a consultation with a DUI attorney to see what we can do for you.