Field Sobriety Tests in Virginia

Fairfax DUI Lawyer Fights Against all Aspects of Your Arrest

The only purpose of field sobriety tests in Virginia is for the police officer, who already suspects that you have been drinking, to gather evidence that can be used to arrest you for DUI (driving under the influence).

Whether this encounter began with a traffic stop or a drunk driving checkpoint, you will need a skilled Fairfax DUI attorney to fight your DUI charge.

What are the Field Sobriety Tests?

Law enforcement usually use three field sobriety tests to judge if a driver is under the influence of alcohol, prior to administering a breath test to find blood alcohol content (BAC). The police officer will ask the driver to step out of the vehicle and perform the following tests.

  • One-legged stand. The driver is asked to stand on one foot while counting until told to stop. Police officers will determine that a driver is intoxicated if he or she mis-counts, sways, hops, rests, stops early or uses arms to maintain balance.
  • Nine-step walk and turn. The law enforcement officer will ask the driver to walk nine steps, heel-to-toe, in a straight line, turn, and walk the nine steps back to the starting position along the same straight line. Signs of intoxication include using arms to balance, taking more or fewer than nine steps, stepping off the line, stumbling, or beginning the test before the police officer tells the driver to begin.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. This is a complicated phrase for a simple test. The police officer holds an object in front of a driver’s face and moves it back and forth, forward and backward to make sure the driver’s vision follows the object smoothly and that the pupils do not jerk or dart when the object is moved toward the outer range of vision. The driver does not feel or see what the officer sees.

Failure of any of these tests will prompt the police officer to administer a preliminary breath test with a handheld device to obtain your BAC.

Your Rights in DUI Field Sobriety Testing

The police use these field sobriety tests to find evidence against you and charge you with drunk driving. If you are asked to complete these tests, the police officer already believes you to be intoxicated and will find any reason to confirm that assumption. If you stumble, have difficulty hearing, or have a health issue that impacts your vision, balance, or ability to walk to stand on one leg, failing these tests will be recorded as evidence of drunkenness.

You may refuse to take field sobriety tests. Know that the police officer will infer from your refusal that you are intoxicated, even without any supporting evidence. BUT the officer will have NO EVIDENCE to support his “hunch” and, while you may still be arrested, your chances of winning your case SKYROCKET! You are only required to submit to a breath or blood test after you are arrested for DUI. If you refuse to submit a breath or blood sample after you are arrested, you could be charged with refusal and face a full year without a license or the option for a restricted license.

Legal Counsel That Never Gives Up on Fighting Your DUI Charge

Field sobriety tests are almost never helpful in defense against drunk driving charges in Virginia. Call The NoVa Law Firm at (703) 352-9347, or contact us online today to schedule your free consultation and begin getting your DUI charge dismissed.

Eric Clingan
About the Author: Eric Clingan
Eric Clingan is an experienced Criminal Defense attorney and the founder of the NoVA Law firm. He focuses his practice on defending residents of Northern Virginia charged with DUIs, reckless driving, drug charges, and other criminal accusations.