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Can You Refuse a Field Sobriety Test in Texas?

Police officer approaches car in traffic stop, Texas DWI lawyer

Standardized field sobriety tests are stacked against you

When police pull over a driver in Texas and suspect impairment, they will conduct an investigation. This usually begins by asking the driver to take a series of field sobriety tests. How the driver performs on these tests plays a big role in determining whether an arrest is made and charges are filed.

But as an experienced DWI lawyer can tell you, the odds are against you – whether or not you are actually impaired.

If a police officer suspects you are impaired, you may be asked to step out of the car. The officer may explain that you will be asked to take some tests. But police likely won’t ask for your permission to conduct the tests. It’s just assumed you will cooperate.

Understanding field sobriety tests

There are three tests that are part of the standardized field sobriety tests used by police across the country:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) – In this eye test, the driver will be asked to stand still while the officer checks the driver’s eyes. The officer is looking for involuntary jerking of the eyes, which is a sign of impairment.
  • The Walk and Turn Text (WAT) – In this test, the driver will be asked to walk a straight line from heel to toe, with their arms stretched out, then turn around and walk back. The officer is checking to see if the driver can follow instructions and maintain balance.
  • One Leg Stand test (OLS) – The driver is asked to stand on one leg for 30 seconds. This is also a test of following instructions and balance.

Many factors can affect the results

Your performance will be captured by body cameras and dash cameras. If you fail these tests, that will be used as evidence against you if you are charged with DWI. But these tests are not designed for you to pass. There are multiple problems with these tests that can cause you to “fail.”

For example, the eye test must be conducted with precision, which can be quite difficult on the side of the road. And cameras likely won’t capture what the officer sees.

The walk-and-turn test requires a driver to walk an imaginary line under stressful conditions. For example, weather conditions may make it challenging to perform the tests, or the driver could be fatigued.

The one-leg stand can also be difficult for people to do for a variety of reasons, including fatigue, footwear, or a bad knee. And if the driver doesn’t quite make 30 seconds, too bad.

An experienced DWI defense attorney can fight for your rights

These tests have been challenged and debunked by experts for years but are still used as evidence. So what are your options if you are pulled over and asked to take them?

You can refuse – you do not have to take field sobriety tests.

If you are asked to exit the car, do so. But if the officer starts to administer the tests, politely refuse to take part. It’s important to note that it is possible you may still be arrested for DWI. However, there will be less evidence that can be used against you.

If you are placed under arrest, call an experienced DWI attorney as soon as possible. Attorney Amanda Webb has been a criminal defense lawyer in Montgomery County since 2009. She knows the Texas DWI laws. She knows how to create an effective defense strategy.

Learn more about how our law firm can help if you've been charged with DWI. Contact us today for a free consultation.