If the police pull you over for DUI, they will most likely ask you to take field sobriety tests (FST). Unfortunately, you may feel pressured to agree to take them even though these tests are voluntary. If you fail them—which can happen even if you were not drunk—the police could use the results as evidence that you were driving when drunk and arrest you.
However, you may be able to challenge the results of your field sobriety tests. Depending on the other evidence the police have against you, this may result in the charges against you being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense with less harsh punishments.
What Is a Field Sobriety Test?
Field sobriety tests are standardized tests to determine whether someone is intoxicated. They were developed by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) to be administered when someone is stopped for DUI. There are three tests used by the police in Virginia:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus. This test shows a person’s ability to smoothly follow an object with their eyes from left to right, which is difficult if they are intoxicated. Their eye movements are also more likely to be jerky when they are drunk.
- Walk and turn. When performing the walk-and-turn test, a person must walk heel to toe for nine steps in a straight light, turn on one foot, and repeat the procedure. They could fail if they do not follow the instructions exactly or lose their balance.
- One-leg stand. An individual must stand on one foot while maintaining their balance and count until the officer tells them to stop. Many people could not pass this test even if they were sober.
Four Ways to Challenge the Results of a Field Sobriety Test
The police must have probable cause to arrest you for DUI in Virginia. One way they can establish this is through the use of your FST results.
However, if you are able to challenge the test results, they may be found inadmissible in your criminal case. If there was no other evidence of your intoxication, law enforcement officials may not have been justified in arresting you. At a minimum, a successful challenge could weaken the prosecutor’s case against you. Here are four ways to challenge the FST results.
Test Results Are Not Reliable
Although field sobriety tests were developed by the NHTSA, this does not mean that they accurately determine whether a person was driving when drunk. There are studies showing that they are not 100 percent trustworthy. You may be able to question how accurate your test results were through the use of an expert witness.
FSTs Were Not Administered Properly
The NHTSA provides extensive instructions on how field sobriety tests are to be properly administered, and police officers must have training on how to administer them correctly. There are many errors an officer could make that may affect the test results, such as not giving clear instructions, having you do the test on a slippery surface, and incorrectly grading your results.
Officer Did Not Have Sufficient Experience
Because of the detailed instructions that must be followed for FST results to be accurate, a police officer must have sufficient training and experience in administering these tests. If they lacked experience or training, this may be another way to challenge how accurate your field sobriety test results were.
Medical Conditions May Affect the FST Results
Other factors, such as medical or psychological conditions or medications, could affect your ability to pass field sobriety tests. For example, an inner ear infection could affect your balance, or a neurological condition may make it difficult to follow an object with your eyes. If you are older, you may have a harder time balancing on one foot or performing the other tests due to your physical limitations. These are just a few ways to challenge test results based on medical conditions you have or medications you are taking.
Let Us Mount an Aggressive Defense to Your DUI Charges
If you were arrested for DUI in Virginia, you need an experienced DUI lawyer who will raise all your defenses to the charges you face. At the Wilson Law Firm, we know how to challenge FST results and will aggressively fight to achieve the best possible outcome for you. To learn about our track record of success in these cases and how we can assist you, call our office to schedule your free consultation today.