Field Sobriety Tests in Texas

Police throughout Texas are vigilant in the monitoring and prosecuting of drivers who are suspected of driving while intoxicated. In 2013, there were 99,915 DWI arrests, which resulted in 71,030 convictions. As such, if someone is driving erratically, a police officer is likely to pull them over for suspicion of driving a vehicle while intoxicated. Once pulled over, the officer will look for signs that the driver is intoxicated. Possible signs of intoxication include slurred speech, red eyes, delayed reactions, or the smell of alcohol.

If an officer believes that the driver is intoxicated, the officer will likely ask the driver to submit to a field sobriety test. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, three tests comprise the Standardized Field Sobriety Test.

Types of Field Sobriety Tests in Texas

  • horizontal gaze nystagmus
  • walk-and-turn
  • one-leg stand

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. According to the NHTSA, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test is when the officer observes the eyes of a suspect as the suspect follows a slowly moving object such as a pen or small flashlight, horizontally with his or her eyes. The officer looks to see if the eyes cannot follow the object or if the eyes are jerking.

According to the NHTSA, this test allows proper classification of approximately 88% of suspects.

Walk-and-turn. The walk-and-turn test is exactly what it sounds like: the driver takes nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line. Then the driver pivots and walks back in the other direction. The officer observes the person to see if there is an improper turn, an incorrect number of steps, or loss of balance.

Research from the NHTSA indicates that 79% of persons who exhibit two or more indicators will have a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or greater.

One-leg stand. Finally, during the one-leg stand test, the person is asked to stand with one foot about six inches off of the ground. And the person is asked to count aloud until the officer asks the person to put his foot down. This lasts for about 30 seconds, during which time the officer looks for signs of impairment, such as “swaying while balancing, using arms to balance, hopping to maintain balance, and putting the foot down.”

According to the NHTSA, 83% of persons who exhibit two or more indicators of impairment will have a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or greater.

The officer may choose to administer one field sobriety test or a combination of tests. The accuracy of determining impairment increases when multiple tests are employed. Importantly, one can refuse to take a field sobriety test. While there are no penalties for refusing to consent to a field sobriety test, there are certain consequences. For example, an officer may use a driver’s refusal to perform a field sobriety test when determining the issue of probable cause to arrest. What’s more, in a trial, a jury may infer that a driver’s refusal to submit to a test is evidence of intoxication.

Testing Blood, Breath Specimen Samples

Finally, in lieu of a field sobriety test, the officer may ask the driver to submit to the taking of a specimen of breath or blood in order to determine the driver’s alcohol concentration. While there is no penalty for refusing to take a field sobriety test in Texas, there are consequences for refusing a breath or blood test. In particular, a driver who refuses a blood or breath test following an arrest for DWI may have one’s driver’s license suspended from 90 days to 2 years.

If you have failed or refused a field sobriety test and have been charged with a DWI, it is important to reach out to an experienced DWI attorney today who can help you protect your legal rights.

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