If You're Pulled Over on Suspicion of DUI, You’ll Be Asked to Consent to Field Sobriety Tests

After you have been pulled over on suspicion of DUI in Virginia, the first thing the officer will do (after briefly interviewing you in your car) is ask you step out and perform what are known as “field sobriety tests.” The details of the tests may differ from county to county, but the intent is the same: to gauge your level of intoxication, if any, by your ability to perform the various tasks. If you fail these tests, the officer will administer a breathalyzer test, and you will probably be booked on a Virginia DUI charge.

In Virginia, Most Field Sobriety Tests Consist of Three Components

What do the standard field sobriety tests look like? Here's a brief rundown:

  • First, the officer will administer a “horizontal gaze nystagmus” test, in which he holds a pen or flashlight in front of your eyes and moves it slowly back and forth. If you cannot (in the judgment of the officer) follow the object smoothly with both eyes, that will be taken as a sign of intoxication.
  • Next, the officer will ask you to perform a “walk-and-turn” test, in which you'll be asked to take at least nine steps, heel-to-toe, in a straight line, then turn around and repeat this exercise in the opposite direction. Stepping off the line, using your arms to maintain balance, or failing to match heel and toe can all be taken as indicative of DUI.
  • Finally, the officer will ask you to balance on one leg, with your other foot at least six inches off the ground, and to hold this pose for at least 30 seconds. Swaying, hopping, waving your arms, or touching your raised foot to the ground can all (in the officer's opinion) be a sign of intoxication.

Some jurisdictions in Virginia might use variations of another test that was de-emphasized nationwide following a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This test involves counting backward from 100 or reciting the alphabet backward. The trouble is that even stone sober drivers can have difficulty passing such a test, since smoothly reciting the alphabet backward isn't necessarily a skill that most individuals possess.

Did You Fail Your Field Sobriety Test? You Need to Retain an Experience Defense Attorney.

Field sobriety tests represent only one brick in the wall of evidence needed for a DUI conviction in Virginia.  If, in the officer's judgment, you fail these tests, he will then administer a breathalyzer test—and if you fail that test (by registering a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher), you will be taken to police headquarters for a more accurate blood test.

If you are currently fighting a DUI charge, call the Virginia DUI attorneys at Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman, PC today at 888-783-9701 for a free consultation