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Are Field Sobriety Tests Mandatory in Texas?

Texas police officer makes a DWI stop

The short answer: no. These tests are optional in Texas.

It's an iconic part of a DWI traffic stop: the officer instructs the driver to stand on one leg, walk a line, or follow an object with their eyes. Despite their unreliability, these roadside exams are administered every day in Texas.

Field sobriety tests are not a trustworthy way to estimate a driver's level of intoxication. The "results" rely on a police officer's gut instincts to help support drunk driving charges. That means there is a lot of room for even sober people to be arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI).

Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer, knows how to demonstrate that field sobriety tests are flimsy excuses for arrests. If you are facing DWI charges in Harris County, Montgomery County, Waller County, The Woodlands, or the greater Houston area, contact our Conroe-based criminal defense law firm. Whether you took a field sobriety test or not, our Texas DWI attorneys can help.

What you need to know about the field sobriety tests

Since field sobriety tests remain a tactic for Texas police departments, it's important to understand them. Here's what you need to know.

  • In Texas, taking a field sobriety test is voluntary. No matter what an officer tells you, in Texas, participating in a field sobriety test is optional. If you are pulled over by an officer for DWI or any other reason, you do not have to take the field sobriety test. Unlike chemical tests, there is no license suspension or other consequence for refusing a field sobriety test.
  • There are several types of tests. The standardized field sobriety tests (SFST) have specific challenges and guidelines for administration, while the non-standardized ones do not. The SFST tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the one-leg stand, and the walk-and-turn.
  • Other factors can affect these tests. People who are tired, have physical disabilities or mental health disorders, have height and weight differences, or are in a heightened emotional state may "fail" the field sobriety tests even though they are not intoxicated. The anxiety of the traffic stop itself is also a factor in the field sobriety tests.
  • It's just an opinion. Field sobriety test results come down to the opinion of a single officer. Their interpretation of your reactions and behavior is not a fact.
  • A "failed" field sobriety test does not mean you will be found guilty.

Can I be arrested for not taking a Texas field sobriety test?

Again, field sobriety tests are optional in Texas. You can politely decline to participate. Refusing the test also doesn't give the officer probable cause to arrest you. That said, you can still be arrested if the officer has some other evidence that establishes probable cause to suspect DWI, such as smelling alcohol on your breath — but that would be the case regardless of the field sobriety test.

There are only a few things you have to do at a traffic stop: show the officer your license and registration, give your name and address, and exit the vehicle if you are instructed to do so. That's it.

Relentless DWI criminal defense in Texas

Again, just because you "failed" a field sobriety test doesn't mean you will be convicted of DWI. The Texas DWI attorneys at our law firm know how to attack field sobriety test results through in-depth investigations, aggressive negotiation, and sharp litigation.

If you have been charged with a DWI in Conroe or the surrounding area, you need to protect your freedom. Our law firm focuses on DWI cases. We offer free case consultations to people facing intoxicated driving charges.

A member of our team is available to hear from you anytime, day or night. Contact Amanda Webb - DWI Attorney, to schedule your free case consultation today.