Nobody wants to get arrested on a drinking and driving charge. On the other hand, it can be very hard not to cooperate when a police officer pulls you over and asks you to do something. The question then is, should you perform field sobriety tests on request?
Field sobriety tests are physical exercises that police departments around the country, including here in San Angelo, use to help make a case of probable cause for arresting a motorist on a DWI charge. Authorities claim these tests of a person’s balance, coordination and ability to follow directions can indicate if they are over the legal limit of .08 percent for blood-alcohol content.
What are field sobriety tests?
The standardized field sobriety tests approved by federal authorities are:
- Walk-and-turn test, in which the subject walks heel-to-toe in a straight line for several steps, turns, and walks back the same way.
- HGN test, in which, using only their eyes, the subject follows an object the officer passes across their face. Tiny jerking motions in the eyes as they move from side to side are supposed to indicate intoxication.
- One-leg-stand test, which requires the subject to balance on one foot for several seconds.
None of these tests are foolproof, and it isn’t hard to see why. Disabilities, poor weather, darkness, uneven road shoulders and nervousness about being pulled over by the police can all contribute to field sobriety test “failures.” So can inexperience or bias from the police. It is not uncommon for someone under the legal limit to “fail” one or more of these tests.
So, should I decline the tests?
Whether you decide to undergo the tests is up to you. But no matter what the police imply, you are not legally required to submit to DWI field sobriety tests in Texas. Refusing to take these tests will cause your driver’s license to get suspended for at least six months, but you may be able to contest this later and get it overturned.
Remember, the only purpose of field sobriety tests is to build a case for arresting you. The officer might arrest you anyway, but you are under no obligation to help them investigate you.