What's the Difference Between "FST's" and a "BAC" test in DUI cases?

People who come and see us for DUI representation often tell us that they "refused" "THE TEST" - meaning that they refused to submit to the blood alcohol machine (aka the "BAC" machine) at the station AFTER they were arrested. However, what they almost always fail to understand (at least until we tell them) is that the BAC test is only one part of the whole testing process. Prior to their arrest, the officer almost always obtained other important evidence of their guilt - including their general observations of the defendant (including how the defendant smelled, looked and spoke) as well as what are called "Field Sobriety Tests" ("FSTs"). The FSTs must be given to the suspect (on the side of the road for the most part) in a somewhat specific fashion, and that fashion is controlled by a manual put out by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (the "NHTSA Manual"). These FSTs are often very helpful to police officers in establishing evidence of driving under the influence. Contrary to what some lawyers and non-lawyers might tell you, refusing to take the FSTs or the BAC may or may not be a good idea. Sometimes the refusal to take the BAC test is something a prosecutor is allowed to strongly comment upon at trial, and the refusal to take the BAC test results (in itself) in an automatic licenses suspension. Further, if you have one or more prior DUIs in the last 20 years, refusing the BAC test results in a separate charge that is more serious (from a jail standpoint) than the DUI itself. It is always a good idea to try to talk to an experienced lawyer before taking any tests in a DUI pullover - but good luck getting an experienced DUI lawyer on the phone at 3:00am. That's why we have a 24/7 DUI hot line at 800-LAW-1966.

Please drink and drive responsibly - especially this time of year.