Field Sobriety Tests

Insight from an Austin DWI Lawyer

Over the years, law enforcement in Texas has grown increasingly vigilant in screening for and prosecuting drivers suspected of intoxicated driving. Police officers have been instructed to look for signs of intoxicated driving including erratic driving, slurred speech, reddened eyes, and delayed reactions. If they suspect someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, there are tests they can conduct to further confirm their suspicions.

In addition to the breath and blood tests, police officers most likely request that a driver submit to field sobriety tests, which are a set of tests that measure an individual’s motor skills, coordination, and sobriety.

Not sure if your rights were violated? Call an Austin DWI lawyer today for reliable defense: (512) 595-7080.

What Are the Standard Tests?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has defined the standard field sobriety test as a three-fold test:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: This measures the individual’s optical responsiveness. The police officer will ask the individual to follow a slow moving object with his or her eyes. The officer will be looking for how well the individual’s eyes are able to respond to the moving object; slower response suggests possible impairment.
  • Walk-and-Turn: Much like the name suggests, this test involves the individual being asked to walk heel-to-toe in along a straight line for nine steps. On the ninth-step, the individual must turn in place and walk back in the same manner. The officer will be looking for signs of impairment including a loss of step counts, an improper turn, or a loss of balance.
  • One-Leg Stand: During this final test, the individual will be asked to stand with one foot about six inches above the ground. The officer asks the individual to count aloud while his or her foot is held off the ground until the officer asks him or her to put their foot down. The one-leg stand usually lasts about 30 seconds and the officer will be looking for whether the individual sways while balances, uses their arms to balance, hops to keep balance, or puts their foot down before the proper time.

While these tests are not scientific measurements of impairment, the NHTSA has found that more than 80% of individuals who exhibit two or more indicators of impairment through these tests will have a BAC of .08 or higher.

Can I Refuse the Field Sobriety Tests in Texas?

Unlike refusing a blood or breath test, there are no legal consequences for refusing to submit to field sobriety tests. However, many times an officer that has a strong suspicion of one’s impairment may use a refusal of the tests as probable cause to arrest. Furthermore, in the event of a jury trial, the defendant’s refusal of the test may be used as evidence of intoxication.

If you failed or refused a field sobriety test in Texas and were charged with DWI, you should contact a DWI attorney in Austin immediately. Legal defense is imperative to the outcome of your case and the protection of your rights.

You can contact Stephen T. Bowling, Austin DWI attorney at (512) 595-7080 to set up a free case evaluation.

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