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What are field sobriety tests?

A field sobriety test is a set of assessments that law enforcement officials use to determine if individuals are intoxicated. They are often used when police officers stop vehicles and need to determine if drivers are under the influence of alcohol. There are three general assessments that drivers may be subjected to if they are stopped in Virginia.

One of those assessments is the walk and turn test. During this test, a person must walk heel to toe down a straight line. When they reach the end of the line, they must turn around and return. While they walk, a law enforcement officer may watch them to see if they lose their balance or fail to coordinate their body in a normal manner. Like the walk and turn assessment, the second test, the single leg stand, also utilizes police observations to determine if a person is affected by alcohol.

The third assessment is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. When a person is intoxicated, their eyes may shake or jerk when they turn to the side. If a law enforcement officer witnesses this reaction during this assessment, it may suggest that the driver is intoxicated.

Officers who use field sobriety tests to evaluate drivers for intoxication should be trained on how to properly administer and interpret test results. Problems can arise during the execution of field sobriety tests and, when they do, drivers may be improperly identified as being intoxicated. DUI/DWI defense attorneys can help individuals who have been subjected to faulty field sobriety tests and wish to challenge the legal claims that have been made against them.

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