If I’m pulled over in Virginia for DUI, do I have to take a field sobriety test?
When you are pulled over on suspicion of drunken driving in Virginia, one of three things may happen. The officer may let you go if he or she can readily determine that you are sober or arrest you on the spot if you’re clearly intoxicated. The third possibility gets you more into the gray areas of DUI law. If the police officer is uncertain of your sobriety, he or she can request that you take a field sobriety test.
You do have the legal right to refuse to take the field sobriety test. When exercising this right, it is best to be as non-confrontational as possible. You can simply state that you need to talk to your attorney before complying with the officer’s request. One reason you may want to decline is that these tests are highly subjective. Whether you pass or fail depends solely on the judgment of the police officer.
Unfortunately, a police officer can still place you under arrest if he or she suspects you are driving while impaired and you refuse the field sobriety test. If you decide not to risk it, keep in mind that failing a field sobriety test doesn’t automatically make you guilty of a DUI in Virginia.
What to Expect When Submitting to a Field Sobriety Test in Virginia
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has authorized the use of three field sobriety tests. Each of these tests measures a specific reflex or response that should be altered if the person is truly impaired. These include:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: Also called an eye test, this portion of a field sobriety test measures whether your eyes track an object normally. People who are intoxicated should display involuntary jerking of the eyes during this test. To complete it, a police officer will hold a pencil, finger, or a similar object approximately six inches away from your nose. He or she then moves the object slowly from side to side while observing how your eyes track it.
- One-Leg Stand Test: For this test, the police officer tests your balance by asking you to stand on one leg. If it appears the test may give inaccurate results due to sloped pavement, your footwear, or any other reason, he or she may substitute another reflex test. These may include bending over to retrieve an object from the ground, counting or saying the alphabet backwards, touching your finger to your nose several times, or keeping your focus on a specific object that the officer selects.
- Walk and Turn: This test measures both balance and motor skills. The officer starts the test by having you stand on a line, walk several steps forward, turn around, and then walk back towards your vehicle. The steps must be heel to toe, meaning the heel from one foot needs to touch the toes of the other with every step. You could fail the test if you lose count of your steps, fall over or sway, step outside of the line, or leave any space between your heel and toes while walking.
What to Do if You Fail the Field Sobriety Test
It’s common for people to fail one or more of these tests when they are completely sober. You could have poor balance from a medical condition, problems with normal eye tracking, or difficulty with bending and turning due to sore muscles. Sometimes police officers refuse to hear these simple explanations if they have pre-conceived notions of your sobriety.
Contact an Experienced Virginia DUI Attorney Immediately
If you feel that you have been unfairly charged with a DUI in Virginia, it is imperative that you seek experienced legal help right away. The experienced DUI attorneys at Pack Law Group have many years of experience challenging these subjective tests and getting charges dropped against their clients. While we can’t guarantee any specific outcome, we’re happy to offer you a free consultation to learn more about your case. Contact our office by calling (540) 586-7225 or by using our website contact form.