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What if I Can't Do the Field Sobriety Tests?

Nov. 27, 2018

Field sobriety tests are used by Virginia law enforcement to determine if a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, these "tests" are inaccurate and even at times completely deceptive of a person's true level of intoxication.

A number of different medical or physical conditions can make it difficult or impossible to properly perform the tests, and in many cases law enforcement officers will not take this into account, leading to a false arrest for DUI. The most blatant example of this is that the tests are scored the same for a 20-year-old male and a 90-year-old male.

If you have been arrested for DUI in Virginia, experienced Virginia DUI attorney Bryan J. Jones is here to defend your case and protect your rights.

Virginia Field Sobriety Tests: Medical & Physical Limitations

Certain medical conditions or physical limitations can create "false positive" indicators of intoxication when performing three of the most common field sobriety tests.

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

  • One Leg Stand

  • Nine Step Walk and Turn

The most common medical and physical limitations that can create false positives include the following:

  • Overweight: Individuals who are heavier often struggle to perform physical functions, like walking with one foot in front of the other or standing on one leg for an extended period of time, even without the influence of drugs or alcohol.

  • Age: An older individual may have difficulty performing the field sobriety tests, and performance of the same may even cause great pain or discomfort, which in turn affects performance on the test.

  • Balance Issues: A number of people throughout the country suffer from inner ear issues, which result in an inability to balance on one leg, walk a straight line, or even touch their noses correctly. Also, many of us are just naturally clumsy.

  • Nystagmus: The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test looks for deviations from standard eye movements indicative of intoxication. However, for people with a natural nystagmus, they may exhibit signs consistent with intoxication when performing the test when, in reality, their eyes are functioning as they normally do without any influence of drugs or alcohol.

  • Injuries: Injuries may affect your ability to perform the tests, especially if the injury involved your legs or arms. Many injuries may not be visible to the officer, but can cause great pain or instability. This can result in a false arrest for driving under the influence.

  • Mental Limitations: People who suffer from anxiety, depression, or other mental conditions may not perform well on field sobriety tests, even when they are completely sober.

  • Speech Impediments: During or around the time of the tests, you may be asked questions. If you answer and have a speech impediment, it may appear that you are intoxicated when you are not.

Officers are watching every step you take to attempt to determine if you are intoxicated. Physical and medical limitations can mimic other indicators which present as signs of intoxication. Officers often mistake these medical and physical conditions for intoxication, even when the driver is sober.

Right to Refuse Field Sobriety Tests in Virginia

You are allowed to refuse to take any form of field sobriety test. Before making any arrest, officers will often ask you to perform a field sobriety test in order to determine if you are intoxicated. Field sobriety tests are far from accurate, and often result in "false positive" indications of intoxication.

After being asked, you have every right to refuse to perform a test. In many cases, officers will imply that it will look bad and could lead to an arrest if you refuse to take the field sobriety test. If you refuse to take the field sobriety tests, an officer must determine whether to arrest you based on other factors, such as

  • your driving before the initial stop,

  • slurred speech,

  • bloodshot eyes,

  • inability to concentrate,

  • the odor of drugs or alcohol, or

  • the visible presence of drug paraphernalia or alcohol bottles.

Defending Your Virginia DUI Case

If a medical or physical condition was the cause of your DUI arrest, you can challenge the results of the field sobriety test to defend your case. Evidence may be kept out of court or it can be explained to the court to prove that you were safe to drive.

Consult an Experienced Virginia DUI Attorney

If you have been charged with DUI in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the penalties are serious and you face the potential for jail, high fines, and the loss of your driver's license. Knowing your rights when it comes to field sobriety tests is an important part of protecting yourself against criminal charges.

You do not have to face this process alone. To protect your constitutional rights, you need Virginia DUI attorney Bryan J. Jones to defend your case. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation to discuss your case.