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Is the walking field sobriety test accurate?

Virginia has clear laws on drunk driving and what may lead to a person being charged with an impaired driving offense. However, it is important for you to know that even with laws in place, there are still potential problems associated with the field sobriety tests often used as part of a drunk driving investigation and arrest.

According to, none of the three standardized roadside tests administered before a person may be arrested for impaired driving are fully accurate in all cases. One of these tests, the walk and turn test, has a stated accuracy rate of only 66 percent. Multiple things could contribute to this test not returning fully accurate results.

Because a person's balance is an essential thing that is evaluated in the walk and turn test, any medical condition that negatively impacts balance might make this test unreliable. This includes weight, joint problems in the leg, foot, knee or hip as well as muscular or other soft tissue injuries or problems in the lower extremities and hips. Even problems with a person's back may interfere with good balance. It is important also for drivers to know that the field sobriety tests are only meant to support an officer placing them under arrest, not to conclusively prove that they are drunk.

This information is not intended to provide legal advice but is instead meant to give Virginia drivers accused of drunk driving charges an idea of how the walk and turn field sobriety test may not always be accurate.

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Ronald E. Smith, P.C.

criminal defense & Social security disability law

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