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What Are the 3 Standard Field Sobriety Tests?

Man touches nose during a field sobriety test conducted by a police officer for suspicion of drunk driving.

Police often use field sobriety tests to determine if a driver is intoxicated by assessing their physical and mental capabilities. While performing these tests, police look for sensory clues such as your speech, odor, and demeanor to establish probable cause for a DWI arrest.

While a field sobriety test can lead to probable cause, the reliability of these tests is a subject of debate. According to the NHTSA’s Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Manual, the most accurate of the standardized tests has a maximum accuracy of 77% in detecting drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.10.

What three standard field sobriety tests does law enforcement use?

There are three primary standardized field sobriety tests endorsed by the NHTSA. These include:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test: This test is deemed the most reliable field sobriety test. It involves following an object with one’s eyes. Police often consider involuntary eye movements as an indicator of intoxication.
  • One-leg stand (OLS) test: When performing this test, you must stand on one leg and count to a specific number. Police will look for difficulty in maintaining balance and/or counting.
  • Walk-and-turn (WAT) test: This involves walking heel-to-toe in a straight line, turning, and walking back. When administering this test, police often look for problems with balance or following instructions.

Does failing a field sobriety test lead to a DWI conviction?

Several variables influence the effectiveness and fairness of FSTs. In Texas, failing an FST doesn't necessarily guarantee a DWI conviction. At the most, it can lead to an arrest. After an arrest, further testing (e.g., breathalyzer or blood test) is conducted to measure BAC. The results of these tests are more definitive and carry significant weight in court. However, they can still be disputed.

An experienced Texas DWI defense attorney can challenge the validity of these tests. The most common challenges that arise during field sobriety tests include:

  • Environmental and physical factors: Roadside conditions, such as uneven terrain, poor lighting, and extreme weather, often affect performance on field sobriety tests, especially if slipping and tripping hazards exist. Additionally, clothing and footwear choices (e.g., high heels or heavy boots) can hinder a person's ability to perform these tests.
  • Health and medication factors: There are various health issues that can impact someone's ability to perform a field sobriety test. These include inner ear disorders, arthritis, and eye problems. Medications and age-related factors can also affect balance and mobility without necessarily impairing driving ability.
  • Improper test administration: If an officer provides unclear instructions or demonstrates the tests improperly, it can lead to unfair failure. Even minor deviations in conducting the tests can significantly affect the outcomes.
  • Anxiety and stress: The stress of being pulled over often triggers fight-or-flight responses. This makes it difficult to focus on tasks or control body movements.

Should I take a field sobriety test?

In Texas, you're not legally required to submit to a field sobriety test. You have the right to politely refuse to participate in one. Refusing such a test isn't an admission of guilt, and it can't be used against you in court. Plus, there are no penalties for refusing. However, you can still be arrested if an officer has other reasons to believe you're driving while intoxicated.

What are my legal options if I'm arrested for DWI in Texas?

If you refused a field sobriety test and were still arrested, don't just assume you're out of options. Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer can investigate your arrest and look for evidence to help you fight the charges. With a law office in Conroe, we serve clients across Texas. Call us or contact us online to schedule your free DWI case evaluation.

How to Avoid a DWI Arrest During the Holidays

Man covering his face with his hands after being stopped by police for suspicion of DWI.

The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration, and gathering with friends and family. However, it's also a period when police are out in full force looking for drunk drivers. When you operate a motor vehicle after drinking alcohol, you not only endanger yourself and others, but you also increase the risk of being charged with a DWI. There's a reason why you want to avoid a DWI arrest during the holidays at all costs.

Police will be out looking for drunk drivers this holiday season

DWI charges in Texas can be harsh. For a first offense, you could face up to 180 days in jail and $2,000 in fines, as well as lose your license for up to one year. Second or subsequent DWI offenses can carry more harsh penalties.

To help you avoid this, the Texas DWI lawyers at our law firm offer valuable tips for avoiding a DWI each holiday season. In the event that you're charged with a DWI, we would be glad to listen to what happened and explain how a DWI attorney can help.

Plan ahead to avoid a DWI arrest

Before heading out to a holiday event, plan how you will get home safely if you intend to drink. This could include arranging a designated driver, booking a taxi, or using a rideshare service such as Uber or Lyft. Don't worry about having to leave your car somewhere. It's better to have to go back and get it the next day than end up with a DWI charge. You can also ask to spend the night in advance if you plan on drinking.

Know Your Limits

If you're caught driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08% in Texas, you could be charged with DWI. You may be able to get away with having a drink or two, but it's important to understand your alcohol tolerance. The effects of alcohol can vary based on weight, age, and metabolism. Be aware of how much you're consuming, and remember that it's easy to overestimate your ability to drive after drinking.

If you plan to have only a drink or two, give yourself plenty of time for the effects to wear off. Don't drink any alcoholic beverages before driving home. Eating also helps to reduce the effects of alcohol.

Refuse to drink and drive to avoid a DWI arrest

If you plan on driving, it's always best practice to avoid drinking at all. Make a personal commitment not to drink and drive under any circumstances. This commitment not only protects you but also everyone else on the road.

You may face some peer pressure. But that's okay; you don't have to give in to it. Stay true to your limits, regardless of what others are doing, and don't feel compelled to drink just because others are.

Know your rights if you get pulled over

If you get pulled over by police and are suspected of DWI, it's important to know your rights. Your actions during a traffic stop can help you avoid a DWI conviction, even if you're arrested. Here are some steps you should take:

  • Stay polite and compliant: It's important to stay calm, polite, and non-confrontational. Being aggressive or resistant can escalate the situation and work against you.
  • Remain silent: You have the right to remain silent when pulled over. While you must provide your license, registration, and proof of insurance, you're not required to answer incriminating questions.
  • Refuse to perform a field sobriety test: In Texas, you can refuse to perform field sobriety tests without legal penalties. These tests include walking in a straight line or standing on one leg.
  • Understand Texas's implied consent law: Texas's implied consent law states that if you are lawfully arrested by an officer who has probable cause to believe you have been driving while intoxicated, you automatically consent to chemical testing of your blood, breath, or urine to determine your blood alcohol content. Refusal to submit to testing can result in automatic suspension of your driver's license and potentially other penalties​​.
  • Right to an attorney: You have the right to consult with an attorney. If you're arrested, you can request to speak to a lawyer before deciding whether to submit to a chemical test.

Contact an experienced Texas DWI lawyer for legal help

If you are charged with DWI during the holidays, you're not out of options. Attorney Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer can help you fight the charges or reduce the consequences. We'll investigate the arrest that led to your DWI charge and challenge chemical or breath test results. We'd be glad to learn about your case and advise you on what to do during a free consultation. Contact us online or call our law office in Conroe, TX to learn more.

Does a DWI Show Up on a Criminal Background Check in Texas?

Criminal background check form

It takes legal action, but some DWI charges may be sealed.

A DWI charge can hold you back even after the case is closed. It may be unfair, but many employers, landlords, and universities use criminal background checks to weed out those with a record. Once you have any type of criminal record that shows up in a background check, it often takes legal action by an expungement attorney to keep the past from ruining your future.

No one should have to pay for a single mistake for the rest of their life. Fortunately, many people with drunk driving charges can avoid this fate. It usually takes legal action, but some DWI information can be concealed from public view.

Not everyone qualifies, but if driving while intoxicated charges are holding you back, it is worth consulting an experienced Texas DWI defense attorney about getting your record expunged or sealed with an order of nondisclosure.

Here's what you need to know about how Texas driving while intoxicated charges appear - and can be concealed - on criminal records.

Can you get a DWI conviction expunction in Texas?

Under limited circumstances, a Texas DWI may be eligible for expunction. More often, though, people use nondisclosure orders to conceal these charges. In Montgomery County, a criminal defense lawyer can help individuals determine which option is right for them.

Nondisclosures are issued when the court "seals" certain offenses from public disclosure. Government agencies may not give information about your offense to unauthorized entities. Also, you are not required to disclose the offense information on job applications or anywhere else.

Expunctions, aka expungements, can permanently remove entries from an adult criminal history record. With few exceptions, you cannot expunge a conviction, serious misdemeanor, or felony. Typically, you can only expunge deferred adjudication for Class C misdemeanors, the lowest level of non-traffic offenses.

Although rare, some DWI offenses may qualify for expungement. This includes DWI offenses that do not result in a conviction or where charges were not filed, charges were dismissed, or the person was acquitted or pardoned.

Who is eligible for a DWI nondisclosure?

Eligibility depends on the type of offense and type of community supervision. Texas has two types of community supervision: deferred adjudication and regular community supervision (probation).

Typically, the only type of DWI eligible for nondisclosure are first-time offenses that resulted in deferred adjudication. Nondisclosure is not available to DWIs with BACs of 0.15% or higher or if the person has a violent criminal record.

If a person qualifies and all conditions of adjudication have been met, and court costs paid, at the end of deferred adjudication, the charges will be dismissed without a conviction.

However, the offense and sentence of deferred adjudication stays on your record and can show up in public and private background searches - unless a nondisclosure order is applied for and granted.

Do you want a nondisclosure for DWI?

A nondisclosure order means that government agencies may not give information about your offense to unauthorized entities. Also, you are not required to disclose the offense information on job applications or anywhere else. However, the offense stays on your record and is visible to law enforcement and other government entities.

Applying for nondisclosure in Texas

Texas has about 10 types of nondisclosure orders, and it is important to apply for the right one or risk automatic denial. Many people turn to experienced nondisclosure and DWI defense lawyers to help them successfully apply.

The lawyer can help collect official documents like copies of dismissal and discharge orders, criminal records, and indictment or information documents related to the case. Once they file the completed application, the court will either grant the application or set a hearing date.

Don't rely on automatic nondisclosures

Texas recently began a program to issue automatic nondisclosures for some first-time misdemeanors and instances where charges were dismissed. The nondisclosure should be issued after a six-month waiting period, but this is not something people can rely on.

According to the state's nondisclosure guide, "You should not have to file anything. In practice, you often have to remind the court to take this step." An experienced DWI lawyer can take the initiative in spurring court action and/or applying for nondisclosures.

Contact a DWI lawyer to review your options

At The Webb Firm, P.C., our Texas-based criminal defense team helps people expunge and seal their records. We break down the obstacles standing in the way of your goals and fight hard to get you a clean slate.

Once records are hidden from public view, people typically have more options in housing, education, finances, and the workforce. If you have a DWI you want to conceal, contact us for a free case evaluation.

We can estimate whether you qualify for expungement or nondisclosure and explain your options. There is no cost for this call, just information you can trust. We are available 24/7. Contact us anytime.

Can You Get a DWI While Driving a Golf Cart in Texas?

Two golf carts drive along a course in Texas

DWI penalties are generally the same for all vehicles.

Imagine you're out on the golf course - Montgomery County has over a dozen to choose from. You're having fun playing a round and possibly enjoying a drink. You might believe you're making a responsible choice by avoiding cars or trucks, but did you know that even operating a golf cart can result in felony DWI charges in Texas?

Golf cart DWI charges seem to be happening with more frequency. There have been at least two serious DWI golf cart cases in Texas over the last 12 months, including:

  • A fatal golf cart accident in San Antonio resulted in an intoxicated manslaughter charge.
  • A Denton man was charged with a third offense DWI for allegedly crashing a golf cart at a Denton clubhouse.

DWI and other types of drunk driving charges can be applied in more circumstances than many people may realize - golf cart DWI is just one example. Regardless of the vehicle involved, a DWI conviction has serious potential consequences, including jail time for convictions on first-time offenses, loss of license, thousands of dollars in fines, and a felony criminal record.

Here's what Texas drivers need to know to protect their rights and help avoid legal trouble while driving golf carts in the Lone Star State.

Golf cart DWI in Texas

A DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) charge is possible for a driver operating a golf cart because, like many states, Texas defines "DWI" and "motor vehicle" broadly. The charge itself is deceptively simple. Under Texas law, a DWI occurs when a "person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place."

As straightforward as this may sound, the law is complicated, with many exceptions and technicalities. For example, in Texas, a driver can be charged with DWI even if they haven't had a drop of alcohol in 8 or more hours.

In general, the law establishes three conditions that the prosecution must prove for a DWI conviction:

  1. The driver was intoxicated.
  2. The intoxicated driver was operating a motor vehicle.
  3. The intoxicated driver was operating a motor vehicle in a public place.

However, the common and legal definitions of words may differ in important ways. That's why it's important to understand what "intoxication," "motor vehicle," and "public place" mean regarding a Texas DWI.

Defining terms in Texas DWI

As it applies to driving while under the influence, Texas law defines "intoxicated" as:

"Not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more."

For drivers under age 21, Texas has a zero-tolerance policy. The detection of any alcohol at all in a BAC test is grounds for a DWI charge.

In regard to a Texas DWI, motor vehicle means:

"A device in, on, or by which a person or property is or may be transported or drawn on a highway, except a device used exclusively on stationary rails or tracks."

A small golf cart meets the definition of a motor vehicle in Texas. Golf carts can typically transport about 950 lbs. and may have an electric or gas engine with a top speed of 15-20 mph. It is worth noting that in addition to motor vehicles, Texas DWI law applies to the operation of watercraft (boating while intoxicated) and the assembling of or operation of amusement rides.

And finally, what is considered a public place in Texas? In the context of a DWI, a public place is:

"Any place to which the public or a substantial group of the public has access and includes, but is not limited to, streets, highways, and the common areas of schools, hospitals, apartment houses, office buildings, transport facilities, and shops."

Therefore, even in places that may be marked "private," like golf courses and parking lots, Texas may consider the space "public" in terms of DWI charges.

Take DWI charges seriously

The vehicle is smaller and the speeds are slower, but the penalties for a golf cart DWI are just as harsh as they are for any other type of motor vehicle. Take golf cart DWI charges seriously from the start. If you are facing DWI charges involving a golf cart or any other type of vehicle, contact Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer for a free case evaluation.

Our firm has been fighting to protect the freedom and rights of people accused of DWI in Montgomery County and the nearby area for decades. We are ready to hear from you any time, day or night. Contact us today for answers to your questions and an explanation of your potential legal options during a confidential case evaluation.

Is 'Odor of Alcohol on Breath' Enough to Be Charged With DWI?

Texas police officer makes a DWI stop

During routine traffic stops, police officers frequently check for the presence of alcohol on a driver's breath. This odor is a key factor in many Texas DWI arrests. Understanding its significance is vital for anyone charged with DWI. Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer, sheds light on the significance of alcohol odor in DWI cases. We'll discuss what happens when an officer smells alcohol on your breath, the grounds for a DWI arrest, and essential tips to protect your rights during a traffic stop.

The significance of alcohol odor in DWI cases

The presence of alcohol on a driver's breath serves as a factor for establishing probable cause. This is the legal standard for an officer to further probe a suspected drunk driver. While the smell of alcohol on a driver's breath is a relevant factor, it's rarely the sole basis for a DWI arrest. Law enforcement officers rely on a combination of evidence and observations to build a DWI case.

If an officer detects alcohol on your breath, they may also conduct various tests and consider additional indicators of impairment. This includes slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and lack of balance.

Factors that lead to being charged with DWI

To make a DWI arrest, a police officer must have a reasonable belief that you're driving under the influence of alcohol. Several common factors can contribute to an officer's decision to make an arrest. These include:

  • Observable signs of impairment: These may include bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, impaired memory or thought, or poor balance and coordination.
  • Performance on field sobriety tests: An officer may ask you to perform a standardized field sobriety test. This includes the walk-and-turn test, the horizontal-gaze-nystagmus test, and the one-leg-stand test.
  • Admission of alcohol use: While having only one drink isn't necessarily illegal, admission of alcohol use often leads to arrests.
  • Breathalyzer BAC test results: If an officer believes you're driving drunk, they may request a breathalyzer or blood test. This is done to measure your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). You can be arrested for DWI if your BAC is 0.08 percent or higher.
  • Open containers: The presence of open alcohol containers in the vehicle can potentially lead to a DWI arrest.

Protecting Your Rights When Stopped for Drunk Driving

If you find yourself stopped for drunk driving in Texas, know your rights and understand how to protect them. Here are some key actions to take:

  • Be calm and cooperate with police: Maintain politeness and composure during the traffic stop, avoiding confrontations that could escalate the situation.
  • Provide basic information as requested: Present your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance upon request. Failure to do so may result in additional charges.
  • Exercise your right to remain silent: You have the right to remain silent. You don't have to tell a police officer where you've been, where you're going, or how much you've had to drink. Politely inform the officer that you wish to remain silent.
  • Consider refusing field sobriety tests: In Texas, you have the right to decline field sobriety tests. These tests are voluntary, and refusal doesn't result in a penalty.
  • Document the traffic stop and arrest: If you can, take notes about the traffic stop and arrest. Include details on the officer's actions, behavior, and testing protocols. These details may later help you build a strong defense.
  • Take or refuse the preliminary breath test (PBT): In Texas, you generally have the right to refuse a breath test. Texas has an implied consent law. If you refuse to take a breath test, your driver's license may be automatically suspended for a period of time, even if you are not ultimately convicted of DWI.

Get an experienced Texas DWI lawyer if you've been charged

When charged with DWI in Texas, it's important to get a clear understanding of your rights. Our dedicated legal team would be glad to learn more about your arrest and review your potential legal options.

Attorney Webb and her legal team can thoroughly investigate your situation and ensure that the officer followed the correct protocols. To find out how we can help you, contact us for a free and confidential legal consultation.