Q: Am I allowed to refuse to take the field sobriety tests in the state of Virginia?

A: The quick answer is yes, but it's not a good idea. The only circumstances in which a police officer will ask you to submit to the field sobriety tests are if he's already pulled you over on suspicion of DUI, or if your behavior after you have been randomly stopped at a DUI checkpoint points to possible intoxication. The standard battery of field sobriety tests in Virginia consists of three components: the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (tracking a close-up object, such as a small flashlight or a pen, with your eyes), walking a straight line, and balancing on one foot.

The reason it's not a good idea to refuse to take the field sobriety tests is because, by themselves, the tests are not diagnostic of drunk driving. If (despite your worst forebodings) you pass the tests, the officer usually will have no choice but to let you go or cite you for some lesser traffic violation. If you fail the tests, or the results are inconclusive, the officer can choose to administer a preliminary breath test, or a “breathalyzer.” If this test comes up negative, he also has to let you go. Only if you fail the breathalyzer test (by having a blood-alcohol level of more than 0.08 percent) can you be booked on a DUI charge in Virginia.

So, what happens if you refuse to take the field sobriety tests straight off? Well, that gives the officer the right to arrest you there and then on suspicion of DUI. If you've refused to take the field sobriety tests you'll also probably refuse to take a blood-alcohol test at police headquarters, which gives the police the right to suspend your driver's license immediately and subjects you to penalties that are pretty much equivalent to what you'd receive if you were convicted of a DUI charge in Virginia.

Have questions? Call the experienced Virginia DUI attorneys at Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman at 888-783-9701 for a no-cost consultation today.