Field sobriety tests are tests that are conducted in the course of a DUI stop that assist the government in building their case against someone and proving that they have probable cause to arrest them for DUI. These tests are to be administered in a specific way.
Field sobriety tests in Virginia are used in a number of unique ways. It is specific to every jurisdiction the way that DUI tests are used. Most often in Virginia, we see that those three standardized tests are used together and, in most cases, those would be the only three the officer will use. Although in some occasions, they will add other tests.
They are scientific tests that have been studied under circumstances where the test was administered in a specific fashion. For that reason, if the test is given under circumstances or is explained in a way that is different in a way it was studied, then the results of the test on the side of the road are not going to be valid. If you have taken one of these field sobriety tests in Virginia, and think it may be invalid, reach out to a capable DUI attorney who can use this information to build your defense.
A horizontal gaze nystagmus is a test where the defendant is called upon to follow an object that is held by a police office. What the officer is looking for is whether the eyes of the driver track the object smoothly or whether they show what is called nystagmus, which is essentially a bouncing of the eyes or a lack of smooth pursuit. If the officer finds that there is a lack of smooth pursuit they will, in most cases, put in their police report that the person failed that test.
A walk and turn test is a test that involves taking nine heel-to-toe steps out, pivoting on the person’s foot, and then taking nine heel-to-toe steps back. This is all while keeping the person’s hands at their sides and maintaining balance. In addition, the police are, at the beginning of explaining that test, putting the person on what is called an instructional position and they are watching to see whether the person can maintain that position while they explain the test as well as whether the person starts the test early or wait for them to tell the person when to begin.
The one-legged stand test involves standing on one leg and lifting the other leg approximately six inches off the ground and holding it there while the person counts up to 30 by thousands or until the officer tells the person to stop. The person is supposed to keep their hands by their sides and the officer will be watching for whether the person maintains balance, whether the person puts their foot down, and whether the person has to use their hands for balance.
Field sobriety tests in Virginia DUI cases are going to establish whether the government had or the police officer had probable cause for arrest. In a case where there is no certificate of analysis for whatever reason, then the results of these tests can also form the basis of helping the court determine whether the person was under the influence.
A person always has the right to refuse to perform a field sobriety test. There is no law that requires them to do that and, in fact, the Constitution under the Fifth Amendment protects their right to not incriminate themselves and to not participate in these kinds of tests.
An opportunity to collect evidence can create reasonable doubt in the case as to whether the behavior that was observed by the officer is actually the result of impairment or intoxication or if it may be the result of some other medical condition. If a person receives medical attention and the medical personnel collects additional evidence of intoxication, that can be harmful to their case. It can be helpful to their case if there should have been medical attention given and there was not, because it may create reasonable doubt that the behavior observed by the officer was actually caused by intoxication and not something else.
If there was an opportunity to collect evidence such as that the person was injured or there was something else wrong with them, that can create reasonable doubt in the case as to whether the behavior that was observed by the officer is actually the result of impairment or intoxication or if it may be the result of some other medical condition.
A person always has the right to refuse medical attention. Even if a person needs medical attention or was injured in the course of a DUI, or has some other medical condition going on, if they are cogent enough to understand what is happening, they have an absolute right to refuse to go in an ambulance or even to be checked out by an EMT or a doctor.
Police are trained to determine if a person is in distress, whether they seem to be injured, and whether they need the help of a doctor, but that is a fairly subjective determination that is made by a police officer right at the side of the road.
It is important to know if the driver was hurt or had some other medical situation going on and did not receive treatment because in many cases, behavior on the part of the driver, which may seem to be impairment or intoxication, might actually be explained by a medical condition. A medical condition can easily explain why someone would fail field sobriety tests in Virginia. If there was no effort to determine whether the driver was suffering from a medical condition, it can be important in the case and in some cases lead to the charges being reduced or dismissed.
In most cases, it is not going to hurt them. However, if a person receives medical attention and the medical personnel collects additional evidence of intoxication, that can be harmful to their case. It can be helpful to their case if there should have been medical attention given and there was not, because it may create reasonable doubt that the behavior observed by the officer was actually caused by intoxication and not something else.
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