Field Sobriety Tests You Could Encounter in Virginia

When you’re pulled over on the suspicion that you’re driving while intoxicated, the law enforcement officer can (and will) test his assumption by giving you one or more of six field sobriety tests. Although these tests are designed to evaluate your focus, balance, alcohol consumption, and overall impairment, the complexity involved with some of them could cause a teetotaling nun to seem drunk. These are complicated tests and if they are not administered exactly as the law dictates, they may be thrown out in court. Following is an overview of tests you could possibly encounter when stopped on suspicion of DUI.

Field Sobriety Balance Tests

  • Rhomberg balance test. The officer will ask you to stand straight, with your heels together. You will then be asked to tilt your head back and close your eyes for 30 seconds. You’ll not be able to count out loud, but the officer will expect that you’ll be able to determine when your time is up. If you stumble, sway, open your eyes early, or are unable to determine when the 30 seconds is over, your sobriety may be called into question.
  • Walk and turn. The walk and turn is a pretty straightforward test that demonstrates your stability and focus. The officer will explain and demonstrate the exact path that he wants you to walk before asking you to repeat his actions. The standard walk and turn will require you to take nine heel-to-toe steps and then make an exact 180 degree turn to walk back toward the starting point. When walking, you must keep your arms to your sides, focus on your feet, and count each step out loud. If you’re unable to complete the task exactly as the officer performed it, you could be charged.
  • Standing on one leg. Another common stability test is balancing on one leg. Since alcohol can make you dizzy, balancing is a good way to determine if you’re too drunk to focus properly. You must stand straight with your heels together until the officer asks you to raise one leg approximately six inches off the ground. You’ll then be instructed to count out loud to 10 before switching legs. Swaying or downright losing your balance is taken as an indicator that you may have had too much to drink.

Field Sobriety Physical Motion Impairment Tests

  • Nystagmus (eye movement) test. The officer will ask you to stand still while he places an object (either his finger or a pen) approximately 12 inches from your face. He will then ask you to focus on the object as he slowly moves it back and forth, up and down, and diagonally. If you’re unable to follow the object, keep up with his movements, or if your eyes show signs of involuntary twitching, you fail. The core assumption is that alcohol slows down the eyes’ ability to properly track and focus on objects.
  • Finger to nose. You will be told to stand straight with your heels together, your head slightly tilted back, and your eyes closed. Raise your arms to the sides (forming a “T”) and bend one arm until your pointer finger touches your nose. Repeat with the other arm. The officer will monitor your motions and take note of any instability or inability to complete the task.

Preliminary Blood Alcohol Screening

  • Breathalyzer Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test. A breathalyzer requires you to breathe into a handheld inhaler that can detect the amount of alcohol on your breath. The breathalyzer estimates your blood alcohol level (BAC), and if it is above the legal limit (0.08), you’ll be charged with a DUI.

For more information on your rights when it comes to participating in field sobriety tests, contact us today! We’ll be happy to discuss your rights and legal options if you’re charged with a DUI. Call us at (804) 835-5127 for a free consultation.