field sobriety test

If a traffic officer suspects you are driving while intoxicated, they will likely ask you to submit to a field sobriety test. There are many legitimate reasons for not consenting to a test. There may be heavy traffic or poor visibility. There may be legitimate reasons other than alcohol or drugs as to why a driver has swerved. What are your rights in the state of Texas?

Can I Refuse a Field Sobriety Test?

In most situations, law enforcement cannot force sobriety tests in Texas, and one can refuse to take one. Although there is no penalty for refusing to take the test, you could face dire consequences for refusing a blood or breath test. Specifically, if you are arrested for DWI and refuse a blood or breath test, your driver’s license could be suspended for 90 days to 2 years.

What Are Field Sobriety Tests

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has categorized three tests that make up the Standardized Field Sobriety Test. These include:

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, Or HGN

During the HGN test, the suspect is asked to follow a moving object such as a flashlight or pen or with their eyes. As the object is moved horizontally, the officer observes the suspect’s eyes to determine if they are following the object or if the eyes are jerking. The NHTSA uses this test to correctly classify about 88 percent of DWI and DUI suspects.

The Walk and Turn Test

During the walk and turn test, a driver is asked to take nine steps along a straight line, heel to toe. When they reach the far end, they are asked to pivot and walk back in the other direction. As the suspect walks, the officer keenly observes their walking style for an incorrect number of steps, loss of balance, or improper turns. Studies by NTHSA reveal 79 percent of persons who exhibit two or more indicators could have a blood concentration of .08 or higher.

The One-Leg Stand

The one-leg stand test is precisely what it sounds like. During the test, a suspect is asked to stand on one leg six inches above the ground. The person is asked to remain standing as they count up to a specific number. The test usually lasts for about 30 seconds, and the officer checks for any signs of impairments such as loss of balance, a foot that goes down fast, or swaying as the suspect struggles to stay balanced. Studies by NTHSA reveal 83 percent of persons who exhibit two or more indicators could have a blood concentration of .08 or higher.

What Law Enforcement Is Looking To Detect In DWI in Texas

DWI is an acronym for “driving while intoxicated.” Texas law defines an intoxicated person in broad and elaborate terms, including:

  • A person who has an alcohol concentration of .08 or a greater level. Essentially, alcohol concentration refers to the number of grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath, 100 milliliters of blood, or 67 milliliters of urine.
  • A person who lacks sound use of physical and/or mental faculties because of an introduction of alcohol, controlled substance, a medication, a dangerous drug, or a combination of any or all of the substances into the body.

Essentially, the definitions above mean that for a person to be arrested for a DWI charge in Texas, they must have been operating a motor vehicle in a public place while having lost their normal use of mental and, or physical faculties or had an alcohol concentration of .08 or a greater level.

What Must Be Proven To Be Convicted Of DWI In Texas?

The definition of intoxication in Texas is two-pronged, which gives the prosecutor an obvious advantage on how they will build their cases. Ideally, the state only needs to convince the jury that a person’s blood alcohol concentration was .08 at the time of arrest or that the suspect did not have their normal faculties due to a substance they ingested. The types of evidence in a Texas DWI trial may include:

  • Results of chemical tests: the results of blood, breath, or urine tests are often the most critical evidence to prove a DWI offense in Texas. If the resulting blood alcohol concentration or ratio is found to be .08 or more, the jury may find it very compelling evidence that they use to convict.
  • Results of field sobriety tests: the jury may rely on results of the coordination and balance exercises done by law enforcement officers at the crime scene to make a ruling.
  • Reports from drug recognition experts: not all DWI cases stem from the use of alcohol. Some DWI charges could be related to the use of prescription and OTC drugs such as sleeping pills, illegal narcotics, painkillers, or a combination of substances. Proving these cases can be challenging for law enforcement. The cases involving prescription drugs often rely on the conclusions of drug recognition experts who use the DRE protocol. The DRE protocol is used to prove that you were operating a motor vehicle in a public place while having lost your regular use of mental and physical faculties.
  • Other critical pieces of evidence include video evidence, your own statements, and eyewitness testimonies.

Getting Pulled Over For DWI in Texas

A typical DWI Traffic stop in Texas resembles any other normal traffic stop. The officer flags you down and asks for your license and registration. You will know you are a DWI suspect if the officer asks whether you have been drinking. Regardless of your reply, the officer will ask you to step out of the car and perform some field sobriety test.

Hire a DWI Lawyer to Defend You

To anyone facing DWI charges in Texas, hiring an attorney is your first step to having an acquittal. Our experienced DWI lawyers will leverage that expertise to provide the help you need in developing a robust defense. We have successfully challenged medical and law enforcement evidence at every stage of the DWI testing process. Contact us today to discuss the merits of your case and schedule a free consultation.

Austin Office
816 Congress Ave, Suite 950
Austin, Texas 78701

San Antonio Office
700 N St Mary’s St, Suite 1457
San Antonio, Texas 78205