Am I Legally Required to Take a Field Sobriety Test in Texas?

If you have ever found yourself in a situation where a law enforcement officer has asked you to participate in a series of field sobriety tests, you may be wondering whether or not you have the right to refuse. While you are governed by the state’s implied consent laws if you have obtained a driver’s license in Texas—which state that you have knowingly consented to participate in chemical testing upon a law enforcement officer’s request if it is suspected that you have been driving while intoxicated—it is important to understand that this does not include any of the physical and cognitive tests that are frequently administered during a roadside DWI investigation. Among these tests are the Walk and Turn, the One-Leg Stand and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, which have all been standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Although some experts believe that this is a valid way for law enforcement to make a cursory judgment about whether or not a driver is intoxicated, the results are completely subjective. When administering the One-Leg Stand, for example, they are trained to look for signs that the driver is unsteady on their feet. This means that they may dock a point if the individual is unable to balance on one foot for the duration of the test. While this could be interpreted as a sign of inebriation, it is also true that the participant is simply uncoordinated. Since there is no standard off of which to base the results for each particular individual, it is unfair for an officer to assume that a poor performance is an indication of guilt. For this reason, you are not legally required to participate in any of these tests—as long as you are not asked to submit a breath, blood or urine sample for testing.

On the opposite side of the coin, however, the results of a field sobriety test are often easier to dispute than physical evidence of your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC)—which is usually collected through a breathalyzer test or blood test. Since the results are based on one officer’s subjective opinion, it wouldn’t be hard for a Houston DWI lawyer from Jim Medley & Associates, P.C. to undermine the accuracy of the test. While it is also possible to challenge a breath or blood test before this evidence is used against you at trial, your attorney would need to prove that a) the testing mechanism was not properly calibrated, b) the officer was not qualified to administer the test or c) the sample was contaminated during testing. For this reason, it is not necessarily recommended that you refuse a field sobriety test in place of a chemical test if you ever find yourself faced with this choice.

Written by

Jim Medley

For more than 20 years, attorney Jim Medley has perfected his craft in the field of criminal justice. He garnered extensive knowledge during his 12 years as a police officer in Texas, and applied that knowledge during his time as a professor of criminal law and criminal justice. Mr. Medley brings a unique skill set to the table, and as a result, he would be an invaluable asset in the courtroom should you need DWI or criminal defense in Houston.

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