How to Challenge the Results of Your Field Sobriety Tests

Police Officer Administering a Field Sobriety TestOne of the first ways that the police will attempt to determine if a person is intoxicated after pulling him over is to ask that he perform field sobriety tests (FST). While these tests are voluntary in Virginia, many people feel pressured to submit to them. Fortunately, there are ways to challenge FSTs.

What Is a Field Sobriety Test?

FSTs are a series of standardized tests developed by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) to determine whether a person is intoxicated. There are three field sobriety tests frequently used in Virginia:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus. This is a common test to see if a person can follow an object with his eyes smoothly and without jerking movements.
  • Walk and turn. This test requires a person to walk heel-to-toe for nine steps in a straight line and then turn and do it again.
  • One-leg stand. When performing the one-leg stand, a person must stand on one leg while counting until instructed to stop by the police. The officer would be looking for evidence of imbalance.

How to Challenge FST Results

Raising challenges to field sobriety test results can be a powerful defense in a DUI case that can significantly weaken the prosecutor’s case. Common ways to dispute the results include:

  • Reliability. Even if a FST is administered properly, there are scientific questions about the test’s reliability in determining intoxication.
  • Improper administration. NHTSA developed detailed instructions on how to conduct field sobriety tests, and officers are required to take classes in how to properly administer these tests. Having a person perform a test on an improper surface, not giving clear instructions, and not scoring a test properly are a few of the mistakes that the officer could have made.
  • Other factors. Some medical and psychological conditions and medications can affect FST results. For example, an inner ear infection, brain injury, or skeletal condition could affect someone’s ability to perform one or more of these tests.

Were you arrested for DUI in Norfolk? You need an experienced DUI attorney who can help you mount a strong defense to the charges you face. To learn about our skilled legal team’s extensive experience helping clients facing these charges and how we can assist you, call our Norfolk office to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today.


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