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During a DUI Investigation, Will All Age Groups Be Subject to the Field Sobriety Tests?


Interviewer: With the field sobriety tests—are the police going to test everyone even if they’re under 21or even if they’re older than 60 years old?

Drivers under the Age of 21 Are Subject to a Zero Tolerance Alcohol Policy and Face Charges for a BAC of .01

Aaron Bortel: Every case is different. Someone who is under 21 is often subject to zero-tolerance law, not even the per se 08 law. If the driver just has .01 or more in their system the police only need to test them on what’s called a preliminary alcohol screening machine, not on an evidential breath machine or with the blood test.

That alone can be enough to have someone face the consequence of losing their license for a year as well as paying fines. It’s usually in a fraction. We’re not talking about a misdemeanor charge when it’s a.01 or .05 cases. The .05 is vehicle code section 23140; the .01 is vehicle code section 23136, so those are two different violations for people that are under 21.

The Field Sobriety Testing Is Not as In-Depth; This Age Group Already Face Violations for a Trace Amount of Alcohol in Their System

The field sobriety testing may not be as in depth if it’s just more of a per se over .01 being under 21. This is because of course, when you’re under 21; you’re not allowed to drink. They may just get them on the breath testing. The police officers who have done the stop may not be as concerned about the field sobriety tests especially when someone has a low blood alcohol level. This is because they’re expected to perform fairly well on a field sobriety test if they’re at a very low blood alcohol level.

Young Adults Will Typically Perform Fairly Well on the Field Sobriety Tests

Now, when we talk about what is expected that would be more along the lines of dealing with someone who’s in good shape; who has good balance and what the results would be at different levels of intoxication. For example, someone who’s a young adult; who is in good shape is going to do a lot better on a field sobriety test than someone who is elderly or out of shape and/or overweight.

Young adult will perform better than someone who has some type of a medical issue with their back, with their balance, with their equilibrium, with their legs, their knees, their feet, or their shoulders.

Older Drivers Are More Prone to Physical Issues That Prevent a Satisfactory Performance of the Field Sobriety Tests

There could be all sorts of physical problems that people have that would prevent them from passing the field sobriety test. What we’re talking about is basically the ability to balance on one leg. The ability to touch your nose, to walk a line heel to toe turn around, a number of different field sobriety tests that they have which involve balance.

The other thing they’re looking for is the ability to do two actions at once, such as counting while you’re balancing. The multitasking is something that is measured with the tests in the field, but it’s also something that someone needs to do when they’re driving.

What the officers are looking for is how well this person can do these tasks at the same time. This is something that someone would have to do when they’re driving, such as looking ahead of them, signaling, checking their mirrors, regulating their speed, just everything that you’re doing when you’re driving.

By Aaron Bortel

Aaron Bortel

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