The Three Standard Field Sobriety Tests
Texas motorists can refuse to take a field sobriety test when police officers pull them over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Officers use the test to determine if motorists have any physical or mental impairments, and the test results can be evidence in DWI cases. There is no penalty for refusing a field sobriety test, but the driver may still be arrested if the officer believes there are other signs of DWI. If the case goes to trial, prosecutors may claim that refusing the test is evidence of guilt.
Whether you are sober or not, you are taking a risk if you agree to a field sobriety test. You may perform poorly during the test due to factors other than sobriety, such as the surrounding environment or a natural lack of balance. Your test performance can be considered evidence that you were impaired, even if your blood alcohol content was below the legal limit. The National Highway Safety Administration has three standard sobriety tests.
Horizontal Gaze Test
Police officers will check for nystagmus, a condition of visual impairment caused by involuntary eye movement. During a horizontal gaze test, you must stand still and follow an object by moving only your eyes. The officer wants to see if your eyes jerk involuntarily when they:
- Follow an object back and forth;
- Look all the way to the left or right; or
- Rotate 45 degrees to look up.
Walk and Turn Test
A typical walk and turn test will require you to take nine steps along a line, followed by turning around and taking nine more steps. You may be instructed to take small, heel-to-toe steps and count the steps along the way. The officer is checking for warning signs of impairment, such as:
- Not understanding and following the instructions;
- Not staying on the line while walking;
- Not using heel-to-toe steps; and
- Not being able to keep your balance without using your arms.
One-Leg Stand Test
The officer may further test your balance by asking you to remain still while standing on one leg. The officer will instruct you to stand straight and move the leg of your choice forward, so that your foot is approximately six inches off the ground. You must maintain that position while counting until the officer has asked you to stop. The officer may consider you impaired if you:
- Use your arms for balance; or
- Put your leg down before instructed.
If you think you may not be able to successfully perform the field sobriety tests, you should not agree to take them. If you have been charged with DWI, contact a San Antonio DWI defense attorney at the Law Offices of Sam H. Lock to represent your case. Schedule a free consultation by calling 210-226-0965.