How much weight field sobriety tests have in court will depend greatly on the judge in the case; some judges consider the results of these tests to be very important while others do not. I was in court in Fairfax County recently and the judge said that he did not put much weight in the field sobriety tests, in part because he was an older gentleman and realized that he did not have the physical ability to perform most of those tests and, in his opinion, such tests are not reliable for determining if someone was drunk. As he saw it, someone sick or tired would have bad balance or bad hand/eye coordination and might have a difficult time performing on these tests, even if they were sober.
On the other hand, there are many judges who take the results of field sobriety tests as gospel, and if the person failed the tests, the judge will hold it against them. However, there are many ways to challenge field sobriety tests in a way that makes even those judges consider it less valuable than the police officer would like. That is one reason why it’s very important to hire a lawyer who can throw enough doubt on the test to make it look like it did not really matter.
Is There Video of Field Sobriety Tests?
The law does not require cameras and video recording while they are performing these tests in many counties, so the answer to that would tend to be on a case-by-case or a county by county basis. At least two big counties in Northern Virginia either use them or plan to use them over the next few years. I find that these videos can be very helpful because people tend to be suspicious of police when they are stopped and a complete video of the encounter would show exactly what the officer and the defendant said and did, which would allay a lot of that suspicion.
Many cases have been thrown out because an officer says one thing but the video shows something else. Having video would improve the credibility of police departments and officers, but it would also give police a lot of support when they do everything right.
Does Taking the Field Sobriety Tests Help Or Hinder a Case?
Because the police and government standard when it comes to field sobriety tests is perfection, it almost always hurts the defendant’s case when they take these tests. If that person makes any mistakes at all, the police officer will testify that the person seemed drunk.
For example, there is the Walk and Turn test; there are six cues for this test, and no matter how many of the cues the person got wrong, the officer will testify to those field cues and not mention the others. On cross-examination, sometimes the officer will even not say the person was drunk, only done everything perfectly, and that information will be used against them.
Why Do Police Officers Give Tests To People Who Are Obviously Intoxicated?
Even if it’s obvious that someone is intoxicated police still have to be able to prove in court, so they have to gather more evidence than just slurred speech or the smell of alcohol, which may not be sufficient to convict him in court. That is why they often test the person using standard and even nonstandard field sobriety tests; they have to be able to prove that the person who is driving was endangering their safety or the safety of others in a court of law. Often, police also give the tests so that the person can fail them and they can be seen stopping the test in order to protect them.
For example, a drunk girl might agree to take the Walk and Turn test and fall down, causing the officer to stop the test for the girls own safety. As the court sees it, the girl was falling down because she was drunk, and they generally will not consider that the girl may have fallen down for any number of other reasons such as they were wearing high heels or the road was uneven, or a truck that drove by partly blew them over or startled them somehow. There are any number of reasons why someone taking a field sobriety test might stumble, so it’s very important to have an attorney will challenge the officer’s decision to stop the test and claim safety concerns.
Are Field Sobriety Tests Conducted For A Drug Related DUI?
Quite often, police will ask the driver to do the fields Friday tests even if they don’t smell a call, even though these tests are designed to determine whether or not someone is intoxicated. The tests are really not designed for someone under the influence of drugs, but often the officer doesn’t know why the person they stopped his acting oddly so they run the person through this battery of tests because they don’t know anything else to do.
If police suspect there is something wrong, they don’t spell alcohol, they will often take a person in and give them a blood test instead of a breath test, which would tell them whether or not there were drugs in their system and what types.
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