Below, a Prince William DUI lawyer discusses field sobriety tests and their use as evidence in DUI cases. To learn more about taking field sobriety tests and how it could potentially impact your case call and schedule a consultation today.
In order for the test to have the evidentiary value that the officer and the Commonwealth hope for them to have at trial, they need to be administered in a certain way. These three tests where developed by National Highway Safety Transportation Board and include very specific instructions and very specific elements for how each test to be performed. They were then studied and a certain failure rate on the test was correlated to intoxication in individual. So in order for the results of these tests to accurately determine whether the individual is intoxicated, the tests have to be performed and instructed in the same way that they were done when they were initially developed and studied.
The weight of these tests is in showing the court among other things whether or not there’s probable cause for an arrest. An officer will testify as to all the circumstances that they observed from the time they encounter the accused until the time of arrest that went into their probable cause determination. This can include everything from driving behavior to speech patterns to unsteadiness on one’s feet. But a huge component of the probable cause determination is the field sobriety test. If there is not adequate probable cause for the arrest, then the arrest was illegal and the case is dismissed. So, the prosecution being able to establish that there is probable cause for arrest, particularly through these tests, is a very important part of the DUI trial.
Law enforcement officers in Prince William County do use a variety of field sobriety tests in the course of DUI stops. There are as many different field sobriety tests as there are officers. It’s difficult to generalize about what any particular police force does, because in reality the tests that are done are more unique to the officer than they are to the police force. So anyone who deals with DUIs in Prince William County has to be familiar with the full range of field sobriety tests, know which ones are more accepted, know which ones are more questionable, and understand how each of the tests is supposed to be performed in order for it to convey any information about whether the driver is in fact intoxicated.
You can absolutely refuse to perform field sobriety tests. A person’s Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate themselves includes not just statements, but also taking any test or performing any actions which would create evidence which is potentially incriminating. Because the very purpose of field sobriety test is to generate incriminating evidence against the driver, a person has an absolute right to refuse to participate in any way in field sobriety tests.
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