Field sobriety tests are not always accurate. Sober people may easily fail these tests, which often require good balance and mobility.
Anyone driving around town throughout Virginia, especially during the hot summer nights, might have encountered sobriety checkpoints or been asked to conduct a sobriety test during a traffic stop. Field sobriety tests are one of the methods that law enforcement officers use to try to find drunk drivers. These tests are often conducted without additional testing, such as chemical or breath tests. During a field sobriety test, police officers use their own judgment to determine if a driver has been drinking or not. Sometimes this results in a driver being falsely accused of a crime.
What is a field sobriety test?
Standardized field sobriety tests consist of several actions that may indicate to a police officer that a driver is drunk, states the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These actions are usually the same for most people performing the test. A driver may be asked to walk in a straight line, and then walk back in the same direction without losing his or her balance. An officer may request a driver to stand on one leg for 30 seconds and not sway or use his or her arms to stay upright. Certain eye movements, speech patterns and ordinary movements may also cause an officer to suspect intoxication.
The problem, states USA Today, is that many sober people may find it difficult to pass a field sobriety test. Mobility and balance often diminish as people get older. Overweight people or those suffering from an injury or joint problems might have a hard time walking in a straight line without losing their balance, let alone standing on one leg. Those with mobility or coordination problems might be mistaken as intoxicated just by the usual movements they perform. Also, certain types of speech impediments may mimic the signs of intoxication.
Human error is often a factor when a police officer relies solely on his or her judgment to determine whether a person has been drinking. As a result, people who fail a field sobriety test may end up with drunk driving charges despite not having had anything to drink.
Drunk driving penalties in Virginia
A DUI conviction may have lasting consequences ranging from the loss of one's reputation to difficulties with employment or education. This conviction stays on a person's record and may cause embarrassment from the social stigma of having a criminal record. There are also the financial costs. According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, the consequences for a DUI conviction in Virginia may include the following:
•· A minimum fine of $250 for a first offense
•· The loss of a driver's license for one year for a first conviction
•· Harsher penalties for subsequent convictions or if a person had previous DUIs
If you are facing drunk driving charges following a field sobriety test, you will need to protect your rights. You have the right to defend yourself in court. It will be important to contact an experienced DUI defense attorney as soon as possible.