In a recent case coming out of a Virginia court, the defendant appealed his convictions for driving under the influence and refusing to submit to a field sobriety test. On appeal, the defendant argued that the police officer he spoke with did not have reason to suspect that he was intoxicated, thus making it illegal for the officer to force him to submit to a breath test. The court disagreed with the defendant, citing several indictors that the officer used to suspect that the defendant had been consuming alcohol.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, an officer in Virginia was on patrol one evening when he came across a single-vehicle accident on the side of the road. The officer saw that a car had struck a tree, but also that the car was unoccupied with a cold hood and warm engine. The officer also noticed several beer cans outside of the car’s door.
While investigating the scene, the officer saw the defendant emerging from behind some bushes. The defendant acknowledged that the car next to the road belonged to him and explained that the crash had happened a few minutes prior because he had turned off for the exit too soon. The officer asked the defendant for his driver’s license, and the defendant could not find it, even though it was later found in one of his pockets.
During the interaction, the officer noticed that the defendant appeared intoxicated: his speech was slurred, his eyes were glassy, and he smelled strongly of alcohol. The officer asked the defendant to complete a breathalyzer test, but the defendant refused.
The defendant was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. He was charged with the DUI as well as with the refusal to submit to a breath test. According to Virginia law, if a police officer has probable cause to think that a driver is under the influence of alcohol, the officer can require the driver to submit to a sobriety field test. In this case, argued the defendant, the officer did not have probable cause to suspect that he had been drinking; thus, the officer could not legally require him to take a breathalyzer test.
The court considered the circumstances in the case and found that the officer did have probable cause to suspect that the defendant had been drinking. Specifically, the court noted that the defendant had been hiding in bushes and speaking with slurred words. He also smelled strongly of alcohol at the time of the interaction. Given these facts, said the court, it was fair for the officer to suspect that the driver had been drinking. Thus, the defendant was indeed legally required to submit to the breath test, and his appeal was denied.
Have You Been Arrested For Driving Under the Influence in Virginia?
At Robinson Law, PLLC, we regularly work with clients who face Virginia criminal charges following frustrating interactions with police officers. Given our extensive experience in the field, we are prepared to offer you informed advice, practical assistance, and unparalleled representation. For your free and confidential consultation, call us at 703-542-3616.