Understanding Field Sobriety Tests in Texas

No doubt you have heard of them: Field sobriety tests are a key tool that officers use to collect information and evidence that will later be used to charge a defendant for DWI. But there are a number of important and pressing questions that surround the use and implementation of field sobriety tests.

Those questions, discussed further below, have led many to call for the outright elimination of field sobriety tests. There are issues surrounding the training of police officers on a uniform application of the tests to DWI suspects, and there are even more troubling questions about what different results mean for different people. Just like in any other aspect of life, I will of course perform much differently than you on anything we try to do, can a police officer take from these performances that a person is inebriated?

What are Field Sobriety Tests?

There are several tests that most police officers in Texas are trained to issue. But the most popularly used of these is probably the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN). To issue this test, the police officer will ask a driver to get out of the car and face him or her. Then the officer will ask the driver to focus on his or her finger and follow it. While doing this the officer will focus on the suspect’s eyes and look for an involuntary jerk, which supposedly happens when a person is intoxicated.

The problems with this test are obvious from the beginning. First, it is impossible to know whether and who has involuntary jerks as a normal part of their eye function. Next, can a police officer trained to enforce laws be accountable for knowing what constitutes a jerk and what is just a medical condition or a normal part of a person’s eye function? There are other tests with equally difficult interpretations used by the courts to convict people in Texas of DWI.

Should You Submit to a Test in Texas?

Take your answer from this question from an off duty police officer who was recently involved in a fatal car accident. When the investigation police officers asked him to take field sobriety tests because they detected the scent of alcohol, the police officer refused. Why would he refuse? There are several reasons why a person should refuse to take such a test without an attorney present.

First off, you may feel like you want to take a test to vindicate the fact that you are being falsely investigated for DWI. Do not fall into this trap because if the police are asking you to take a test, you are most likely going to get arrested for DWI no matter how well you do. At this point in an investigation the police are just collecting more evidence on top of what they already have in order to get another conviction.

Next, there is no penalty for refusing to perform a field sobriety test. Under Texas law there are civil penalties for refusing a breathalyzer or blood draw to test blood alcohol levels, but there are not penalties for refusing to do a field sobriety tests. In the end, once you are asked to perform one of these tests, there is a slim chance of it helping your case, and a very real chance it will hurt your case.

Defend Your Rights

If you are charged with DWI, contact us. At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm we will give you a free case evaluation, and help you understand what your options are. We are dedicated to defending your rights and ensuring you get the best result possible in your case.

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