Getting pulled over by a California police officer definitely would rank high on most lists of “things that can ruin someone’s day.” In fact, such situations have been known to escalate into situations that can threaten a person’s career, marriage or life, in general. This is particularly true when a traffic stop results in drunk driving charges.
The more a person understands about state laws regarding such matters, in particular how an individual incident might relate to one’s personal rights (or a possible violation thereof), the likelier it is that he or she may be able to avoid conviction if an arrest is made. For instance, many people do not understand the difference between a preliminary alcohol screening device and a Breathalyzer test. However, understanding the difference may impact the outcome of a particular situation.
A preliminary alcohol screening test is similar to a field sobriety test. It is a means employed by police officers to determine whether they have probable cause to make drunk driving arrests. A screening involves use of a mobile breath test device; the crucial factor being that such devices merely detect alcohol on the breath and do not measure amounts of alcohol in bloodstreams.
In California and most other states, licensed drivers must consent to take Breathalyzer or other chemical tests when lawfully requested by law enforcement agents in connection with drunk driving suspicions. Refusing to consent leads to automatic administrative penalties. Refusing a preliminary alcohol screening, on the other hand, bears no legal or administrative consequence. Similarly, there is no obligation for drivers to participate in field sobriety testing. Anyone with questions about a particular legal issue can tap into local resources for answers.