If you have been pulled over while driving and the police officer suspects you are driving while impaired, they may ask you to submit to field sobriety tests. Are you required by law to perform these tests? What happens if you don’t? Know your rights under Texas law and understand the consequences of both submitting to field sobriety tests, and refusing.
What is a “field sobriety test”?
Field sobriety tests are used by law enforcement to determine whether an individual is impaired. These are physical tests, the most common of which are the following three tests:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): this test is based on an irregularity in the human body — an involuntary eye twitch that happens when looking sideways at an angle of more than 45 degrees. If an individual has a high blood alcohol content, they twitch when the light is positioned at less than 45 degrees, due to the brain’s inability to properly control the eye muscles.
- Walk and Turn: this test divides your attention between mental and physical tasks — listening and following instructions, and walking and turning in a straight line. An officer will instruct you to take nine steps — in heel-to-toe fashion – in a straight line, then turn around on one foot and return to where you started, in the same heel-to-toe, straight line manner. The officer will observe you, noting any indicators of impairment.
- One Leg Stand: like the walk and turn test, it requires dividing your attention between two tasks. An officer will instruct you to stand with one foot placed six inches above the ground, toe pointed, and you are to count by thousands for a period of thirty seconds, keeping your arms at your side and looking down at your foot. During this test, the police officer will look for set indicators of impairment.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) concluded that these field sobriety tests are reliable indicators of alcohol impairment.
Implied consent laws
Many drivers don’t realize that when they submitted an application for a driver’s license, they also consented to submitting to chemical and field sobriety tests. This is called “implied consent”, and all states have these laws.
What if I refuse a field sobriety test?
Even though you have already given consent to taking a field sobriety test, law enforcement officials cannot force you to take the test. There are no legal penalties for refusing to perform field sobriety tests. There are, however, penalties for refusing to submit to a breathalyzer or chemical tests. Refusing to submit to a blood tests or a breathalyzer in the state of Texas results in a suspension of your driver’s license. Suspension for first time offenders is 180 days; suspension for second or third offenders is a period of two years.
Can field sobriety test results be used in court?
Yes. Field sobriety tests are used by law enforcement officers to determine if there is probable cause for a driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) arrest. The results of these tests can be used as evidence of impairment in the court of law.
Don’t panic – our Fort Worth & Southlake Texas DWI/DUI attorneys are here to help
Being pulled over by a police officer can be an intimidating experience. Don’t panic. If you have submitted to field sobriety tests and are being charged with DWI or DUI, or if you have refused testing and are being charged with suspicion of impairment, our Fort Worth DWI/DUI lawyers are here to help. Our experienced DWI and DUI attorneys aggressively protect your rights and work to achieve a positive outcome in your case. Contact the Law Office of Kyle Whitaker today at 817-332-7703 or online to schedule a free consultation.