Field sobriety tests are a series of metrics that law enforcement officers may ask drivers to perform if they are suspected of driving under the influence (DUI). The National Highway Safety and Transportation Administration have determined that there are a few tests that can be performed in the field with some reliability in demonstrating intoxication. Field sobriety tests cannot replace a breathalyzer test for actually measuring intoxication, but they can give officers an estimate of a driver’s level of inebriation. Despite the existence of tests that may actually be informative, many law enforcement officers ask drivers to perform field sobriety tests such as saying the alphabet backward or counting from a certain number to a different number, which has absolutely zero demonstrated reliability in measuring intoxication.
If you have been pulled over for a DUI, an officer of the law may ask you to perform one of many field sobriety tests so they might gauge your level of intoxication. However, it is important to note that in the Commonwealth of Virginia, there is no law requiring drivers to take field sobriety tests. As an experienced lawyer could tell you, there is no advantage to complying with Mecklenburg County field sobriety tests. To learn more about your rights, call a seasoned DUI lawyer.
The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is one of the field sobriety tests in Mecklenburg County that has shown some reliability in determining intoxication. In this demonstration, the officer will move a pen or another object around a driver’s head and ask the driver to follow the object as it moves using only their eyes, keeping their head and neck immobile. Nystagmus is the involuntary twitching of the eyes, and in certain circumstances, it may be evidence of intoxication.
The walk-and-turn test is another test that is relatively reliable for measuring intoxication. It requires the driver to walk heel-to-toe for nine steps, turn in a very specific manner, and return back heel-to-toe for nine steps. Hands should be at the driver’s sides, and they are not supposed to look down at their feet. An officer may observe deviations from a straight line or tripping that could indicate intoxication.
The one-leg stand test is another field sobriety test that may be used at a DUI stop. The one-leg stand test requires drivers to hold their foot approximately six inches off the ground with their hands to their side for 30 seconds. Officers will measure the time while observing the test. Swaying, falling, using arms for balance, or hopping and putting a foot down could be used as an indicator of a high BAC.
For any Mecklenburg County field sobriety tests to be reliable, they must be administered consistently with specific instructions from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, officers are human and prone to variation and error, calling into question the reliability of the test results.
Field sobriety tests carry less weight during a DUI trial than a forensic analysis of the blood or breath of a driver. Forensic tests provide a concrete measurement of either alcohol and some drug levels in the defendant’s system. The field sobriety tests in Mecklenburg County are more subjective and are left open to be interpreted by the judge or jury who decide how much weight to give them.
You can always refuse to perform field sobriety tests during a DUI traffic stop. There is no law in the Commonwealth of Virginia requiring drivers to perform field sobriety tests or comply with requests to do so. Participating in a Mecklenburg County field sobriety test serves no purpose other than to give the officer reasonable suspicion and probable cause to arrest you, and take you to jail pending a breathalyzer test.
You probably will not be able to consult a lawyer during a traffic stop, but by knowing your rights ahead of time, you could protect yourself from self-incrimination and buy time for a DUI lawyer to help you. If you have been pulled over or arrested for driving under the influence or have questions about field sobriety testing in Mecklenburg County, call an accomplished criminal defense attorney today to schedule a consultation on your case.
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