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Is it mandatory to take a field sobriety test in Virginia?

Drinking and driving is a serious problem. Luckily, the total number of alcohol-related crashes has been on the decline in Virginia. However, there were over 20,000 convictions of driving under the influence in 2015 in the state, according to data from the state’s DMV.

Many police officers will attempt to establish probable cause that a person was driving while intoxicated through a field sobriety test. Most people know that they have a right to remain silent, but they wonder if this extends to taking a field test. In this situation, it is important to review Virginia’s laws on the subject.

People can refuse a field sobriety test

Before making an actual arrest, a police officer may ask a driver to step out of the vehicle and perform any one of the common field sobriety tests. At this point, it is acceptable under Virginia law to refuse. Police cannot use this refusal later in court as evidence if it gets to that point. After a refusal, the police officer needs to make a decision as to whether arresting the driver is appropriate based on other factors, such as whether the driver was swerving wildly on roadways.

People cannot refuse a chemical test

Based on other pieces of information, a police officer can arrest a driver on suspicion of driving under the influence. In this situation, the officer will take the driver to the station. The officer will ask the driver to participate in a chemical test to determine blood alcohol levels. At this point, there are consequences if the person refuses. Refusing a single time can result in license suspension for up to one year. Any subsequent refusals will carry much harsher penalties. This is due to Virginia’s “implied consent” laws. These laws state that once a driver has been arrested, then he or she automatically consents to chemical tests. 

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Whitestone Young, PC
10513 Judicial Drive Suite 300
Fairfax, VA 22030-7528

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