Hampton Roads DUI Field Sobriety Tests 

When police officers pull someone over because they suspect the person is driving while impaired, they typically subject them to Hampton Roads DUI field sobriety tests. These tests help law enforcement gauge impairment because they test people’s coordination and ability to follow instructions. If an individual wants to know more about DUI tests and their rights during field sobriety tests, they should consult a capable DUI lawyer that could answer their questions and advocate for them.

Common Field Sobriety Tests

When trying to determine whether someone is driving while impaired, law enforcement usually ask individuals to consent to field sobriety tests. Usually, an officer will perform three to four field sobriety tests with an individual. Some of the tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, walk-and-turn test, one-legged test, number test, and the alphabet test.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

There are a number of different Hampton Roads DUI field sobriety tests, with the most common being the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (the “HGN” test). In this test, the officer will hold a pen in their hand and the individual to follow the pen with their eyes.

What the police are looking for is if the individual’s head moves at all. Many times when an individual is drunk, they cannot hold their head steady and then they turn their head to follow the pen. The officers are also looking at the individual’s eyes to see if they are twitching or, what is called “lack of smooth pursuit,” meaning their eyes are not tracking the object quickly and they are jerking around.

Walk-and-Turn Test

The walk-and-turn test is when the officer asks the individual to take nine steps, heel to toe, and then they do a pivot and take nine steps back. With this test the officer is looking at the individual’s balance, the individual’s ability to put their feet together, and the individual’s ability to follow instructions. Many individuals will take more than nine steps and just keep walking.

One-Legged Stand Test

The one-legged stand test is when an individual is asked to hold one leg usually about six inches off the ground and count (usually, “1-1,000, 2-1,000”). Sometimes they will be told to do that for as long as they can; other times for a certain period of time. They are testing the individual’s balance and ability to follow instructions.

Alphabet Test

One of the most common Hampton Roads DUI field sobriety tests is the alphabet test which is merely asking the individual to recite the alphabet. The only thing different is that the police officer will have them start with a random letter in the alphabet, e.g., say the alphabet from D to P.

The individual is not supposed to sing it, they want the individual to say it. This tests how well the individual can recall things. While the individual is talking, the officer will listen to hear slurring of any letters. It is also important for the officer to note if the individual is able to start and stop the alphabet where they were told to.

Sometimes, they will have the individual recite the alphabet backward. That happens more on television than in real life because most individuals do not naturally know the alphabet backward; one does have to think about it. This is something that can give sober individuals difficulty.

Number Test

Another fairly common test is the number test where they will have the individual count from 30 to 50. The officers are testing to see if the individual is able to stop on 50. A lot of times when an individual is intoxicated, not only will they miss numbers, they will keep going past where they are supposed to stop.

Sometimes, the officer will do the finger test. They ask the individual to touch the tips of their fingers to their thumb and sometimes will have the individual count while doing it. This is not a common test.

Administering Sobriety Tests

There are certain standards that Hampton Roads DUI field sobriety tests must be performed to be admissible. Usually, the officers have to be able to show that the conditions where they performed the tests were suitable, especially if they are testing the one-legged stand or walk-and-turn test. There are certain standards in all of these tests and the idea is that it is supposed to be uniform; every officer who does these tests does it in the same way, gives the same instruction, and gives the same demonstration so that there is no question about what the individual was expected to do.

Importance of Hampton Roads DUI Sobriety Tests

Hampton Roads field sobriety tests do carry weight at a trial, especially if there was no breath test. These are often the tests that convince an officer that there is probable cause to make an arrest.

An individual always has the right to refuse to participate in field sobriety tests, and they cannot be forced to perform field sobriety tests. If you have been forced to take a field sobriety test, speak with an experienced DUI lawyer that could protect your rights and build a solid defense for you.