Do I Have to Do a Field Sobriety Test in Texas?

You have the right to refuse any field sobriety test a police officer may request – and you probably should, too. Understanding your rights, and exercising them, is essential to protecting them when a police officer suspects you of DWI.

While you don’t have to submit to a field sobriety test in Texas, you do have to submit to a breath or blood test if you are arrested for DWI. Keep reading to learn more about this topic.

What Is a Field Sobriety Test?

A field sobriety test is a task a police officer asks a driver to perform to ascertain whether or not the driver may be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. There is no chemical test involved in a field sobriety test; instead, tasks involving physical activity are used to collect evidence.

There are three field sobriety tests in common use:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: This test involves a driver following a moving pen or flashlight with their eyes. It’s believed that when someone is intoxicated, their eyes make an exaggerated jerking motion. This is what police officers look for when performing this test.
  • Walk-and-Turn Test: This test involves a driver walking nine paces, heel-to-toe, in a straight line before turning on one foot and returning in the same manner. Police officers look for balance issues and deviation from the instructions as evidence of intoxication.
  • One-Leg Stand Test: This test involves a driver standing on one leg with the opposite foot six inches off the ground. The driver must count backward from 1,000 until the police officer is satisfied with the driver’s performance.

There are other field sobriety tests that gauge balance, coordination, and mental agility in other ways. If a police officer asks you to perform any of these, remember that you don’t have to do any of them.

Are Field Sobriety Tests Reliable?

Field sobriety tests are not reliable because they are not objective assessments of a person’s sobriety or involve any scientific measurement of their blood alcohol content level.

The main issue with field sobriety tests is that they are ripe for generating false positives. They incorrectly assume that everyone has the same level of physical and mental ability, so it’s up to the police officer to believe if a disability can explain why someone “failed” a field sobriety test. By the same token, drivers who are simply nervous or trip on uneven terrain can “fail” a field sobriety test. The tests also incorrectly assume that a police officer’s instructions are always clear enough to be followed without misunderstanding, when instructions can be stated in a confusing manner intended to cause a driver to fail or given in a language a driver doesn’t understand.

Because field sobriety tests aren’t reliable and can be used to arrest you for DUI, even if you’re perfectly sober, it’s best to avoid performing them altogether.

What Happens If I Decline a Field Sobriety Test?

Legally, there is no penalty for refusing to submit to a field sobriety test. Unlike refusing a test of your breath or blood after a DWI arrest, you won’t risk losing your license just because you refused a police officer’s request for a field sobriety test.

Keep in mind, however, that refusal to take a field sobriety test doesn’t mean you won’t be arrested. If a police officer believes they have enough probable cause to arrest you for DWI, they may do so without even asking you to perform a field sobriety test. This can happen if a police officer says they smelled alcohol on your breath or heard you slurring your speech.

Field Sobriety Tests Results Can Be Used in Court

If a driver submits to a field sobriety test, the results of that test can be used in court to convict them of DWI. As alluded to earlier, these tests are intended to generate false positives that can be used as evidence against DWI defendants in court.

For all of these reasons, you should always refuse to take a field sobriety test. Doing so will only give the police a reason to arrest you and increase your chances of being convicted for DWI.

If you are arrested for DWI under any circumstances, you can contact our attorneys at Rodriguez & Gimbert, P.L.L.C. for assistance. We offer criminal defense legal services that can help those accused of DWI avoid unnecessary consequences.

For more information, contact us online or call (979) 559-3599 today.