DWI Field Sobriety Tests

When a police officer believes that a driver may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they may engage in a traffic stop where the driver is asked to participate in a field sobriety test. These tests are meant to determine whether a driver is intoxicated, but they are incredibly subjective and not always accurate. 

If you or someone you know has been accused of driving while intoxicated (DWI)––sometimes also referred to as driving under the influence (DUI)––in Virginia after a field sobriety test, you need an experienced DWI criminal defense attorney representing your interests in the case. Contact Select Law Partners, PLLC today to schedule a consultation of your case now.

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests in Virginia

There are a number of tests that police may use during a field sobriety test to try and determine whether a driver is under the influence, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recognizes three tests as the standardized field sobriety tests

  1. the horizontal gaze nystagmus test;
  2. the walk-and-turn; and 
  3. the one-leg stand. 

It is important to note that you do not have to agree to participate in these tests if requested by a police officer, but if you do, this is what you can expect.

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN)

The horizontal gaze nystagmus test involves watching the involuntary jerking of a person’s eyes as they follow an object from side to side. An officer will have the driver watch a pen or other object as it is moved from left to right and note the angle at which the involuntary jerking of the eyes occurs. Early onset of the horizontal nystagmus, prior to 45 degrees, is associated with intoxication.

The Walk-and-Turn Test

The walk-and-turn test is a divided attention test, where the driver is asked to take nine heel-to-toe steps on an imaginary line, pivot around, and take nine heel-to-toe steps back. The police officer watches for signs of impairment that may include keeping their balance, starting too soon, stepping off the line, failing to turn correctly, or taking the incorrect amount of steps.

The One-Leg Stand Test (OLS)

The one-leg stand is another divided attention test that asks the driver to raise one foot off the ground, hold still, count for a number of seconds, and look at their foot. The police officer looks for impairment that may include swaying, using arms for balance, hopping, or putting the foot down.

Subjectivity of Field Sobriety Tests

The standardized field sobriety tests and other tests used during traffic stops are incredibly subjective, and police are already biased against the driver if they are being pulled over on suspicion of being under the influence. 

There are many reasons other than intoxication why a person may not pass these tests, including

  • Poor road conditions
  • Footwear
  • Bad weather conditions
  • Illness or health condition
  • Side effects of legally prescribed medications
  • More. 

An experienced criminal defense attorney can examine the details of your case to determine the best possible arguments against the results of a failed field sobriety test.

Experienced, Smart DUI Defense Attorneys in Virginia

If you or a loved one has failed a field sobriety test and been charged with DUI, the knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys at Select Law Partners, PLLC are here to help. Call the office or contact us today to schedule a consultation of your case.

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