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Fairfax Field Sobriety Tests

Most people are familiar with the procedures of a Fairfax DUI stop. Generally, law enforcement will observe an individual that they suspect may be operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. At that point, the officer will check your driver’s license and probably ask you a few questions related to whether you have been drinking. Chances are, they will then ask you to perform a variety of field sobriety tests.

A DUI stop can be intimidating but understanding Fairfax field sobriety tests is an important part of understanding the charges you may be facing. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand the role such testing may play in your circumstances but exploring some of the basics about sobriety testing is a good place to start.

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

Standardized field sobriety tests were developed in the 1970s by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and put into use in the early 1980s. They generally include three different tests that were scientifically designed to help law enforcement determine if an individual may have been operating a vehicle under the influence.

These tests include:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: this test measures involuntary movements within the eyeball that may occur as a result of intoxication
  • Walk-and-Turn Test: this is a common test where an individual is instructed to walk a certain distance heal-to-toe and then turn on one foot before returning in the same manner
  • One-Leg Stand Test: this test requires an individual to stand on one foot with the other extended in the air while counting until being told to place the foot back down on the ground

There are some slight variations to each of these tests, but while these tests have been scientifically researched it is easy to see how subjective they might be in establishing probable cause. Underlying health problems or even nerves can lead to an inability to complete these tests successfully.

What are Portable Breathalyzers?

Law enforcement also commonly use portable breathalyzers to help determine the level of intoxication of an individual suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol. During these tests, an officer will typically ask you to blow into a portable breathalyzer that will give a preliminary reading of your blood alcohol concentration. These machines are not as accurate or reliable as the chemical testing you may be subjected to after an arrest.

Like standardized field sobriety testing, individuals have the right to refuse roadside breathalyzer testing. However, under state implied consent laws, refusal to take a breath test is likely to result in an automatic license suspension. The implied consent suspension is in addition to any other suspension that might later result from a DUI conviction.

Refusing Field Sobriety Testing

It is just as important to understand your rights during a DUI traffic stop as it is when you are facing charges. One of the most important things to remember is that you have an absolute right to refuse field sobriety testing without additional negative repercussions.

Field sobriety tests are used to establish probable cause for effectuating a DUI arrest. Even though a law enforcement officer can use your refusal to perform such tests as a way to establish probable cause, there is no need to provide law enforcement with additional evidence to establish probable cause.

While the results of field sobriety tests cannot be used against you for purposes of conviction, they can be used to help establish probable cause in court. If you are not completely comfortable engaging in these tests, then it is generally in your best interest to refuse them. Lack of evidence from field sobriety testing may provide an experienced criminal defense attorney working on your DUI case with additional pathways to challenge the charges you are facing.

Protecting Your Rights Regarding Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests are an important part of DUI stops and understanding your rights when it comes to these tests is crucial in defending against DUI charges.

An experienced Fairfax DUI lawyer understands the role these tests play in potential charges you may be facing, as well as the role other unique circumstances of your case may play. This is crucial in establishing a thorough defense and helping you understand your rights as a defendant.

If you have questions about your Fairfax DUI or the role of Fairfax field sobriety tests in charge you might be facing, contact our firm to learn more about how our dedicated Fairfax DUI attorney can help you explore your options.

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