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Should you take a field sobriety test during a DWI stop?

If you are pulled over by law enforcement in Texas for suspected DWI, the officer will typically have a planned set of questions and tests to give you to determine if you may be intoxicated. Many times, people who are not as familiar with their rights and who may be intimidated in this situation may submit to any test the officer asks them to do. But did you know you are not required to participate in any field sobriety tests?

Why are you asked to take a field sobriety test?

When an officer approaches your car after you are pulled over, they will ask you several questions to gage your intoxication level. They may find out quickly you are totally okay, or they may have to investigate further. During a stop, you are only required to provide your license, registration and proof of insurance. You are not required to answer any questions. However, you will commonly be asked things such as "Have you been drinking tonight?" or "Where are you coming from?" These questions can lead an officer to suspect that you may have been drinking and are a candidate to test for DWI. For further confirmation that you may be intoxicated, an officer will ask you to participate in a field sobriety tests.

What is a field sobriety test?

A standardized field sobriety test (SFST) is a physical test for the gathering of evidence to assist in the determination of intoxicated driving. While this test is completely voluntary on your part, an officer may still feel you are a candidate for an arrest. Here is what you may be asked to do:

  • Stand on one-leg - The officer will ask to see if you can hold this position for up to 30-seconds without hopping or swaying.
  • Walk-and-turn test - You will be asked to walk a straight line with the heel of one foot touching the toes of the other foot as you go. After around 10 steps you will be asked to turn using only one foot and walk back the same way as before. Officers will be looking for balance and the ability to follow instructions.
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN) - Because your eyes will make involuntary jerky movements more than usual when intoxicated, especially when looking to the side, an officer will check for this movement. This is done by the officer asking you to follow an object with your eyes without moving your head. During this time, the officer will look for the jerky eye movement. 

Why these tests are considered ineffective

Though these tests can be hard to pass for someone who is extremely inebriated, they also have weaknesses. The test can be skewed by poor footwear, restrictive clothing, poor weather, physical issues, neurological issue and a variety of common illnesses that can affect the results.

If you have been charged with a DWI and participated in a field sobriety test, you should contact a qualified DWI attorney right away who may be able to protect your rights by reviewing the validity of your arrest.

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Peter & Lanzillo, PLLC

Peter & Lanzillo, PLLC
1505 Precision Drive
Plano, Texas 75074

Phone: 972-914-9601
Fax: 972-924-9789
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