Field Sobriety Tests

It’s illegal to drive while impaired on drugs or alcohol (DWI). Law enforcement reserves the right to pull you over if they have probable cause you’re intoxicated. They can also ask you to perform a series of physical tests to determine your impairment level. These tests are referred to as field sobriety tests.

Field sobriety tests are designed to measure a person’s impairment level. Police officers use multiple physical exercises to test your mental and physical faculties. Some of these tests include walking heel-to-toe on a line or standing on one leg. While field sobriety tests may seem silly, you must take them seriously. The information obtained in field sobriety tests can be used against you in trial.

If you or someone you know has been charged with DWI, it’s imperative that you seek trusted legal representation.

DWI Attorney for Field Sobriety Tests in Houston

Field sobriety testing is not a perfected science. Certain factors such as weather, age or physical ability can skew your results. Law enforcement may determine you are intoxicated even if you haven’t touched a single drink. If you or someone you know was pulled over for DWI, it’s crucial that you contact an experienced attorney.

Contact Tyler Flood & Associates, Inc. to speak to a skilled attorney with years of experience. The attorneys at Tyler Flood & Associates, Inc. have a strong focus in criminal defense. We have handled many DWI cases where our clients have refused or accepted field sobriety testing. Our attorneys will use our extensive resources to mount a formidable defense for you.

Call us now at (713) 224-5529 for a free consultation. Tyler Flood & Associates, Inc. represents clients throughout the greater Harris County area including Tomball, Pasadena, West University Place and Houston.

Overview of Field Sobriety Tests

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests in Houston, Texas

You may have seen a variety of field sobriety tests on television or the internet. Although these may be real situations, there are only three field sobriety tests standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The information gathered from these tests are extremely valuable and can be used against you in court.

Listed below are the three field sobriety tests that have been standardized by the NHTSA.

  • Walk-and-Turn (WAT) – Police officers may have you perform a walk-and-turn to test your physical faculties. You will be asked to take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line. At the end of the line you must turn on one foot to take another nine heel-to-toe steps back. Perfectly sober people have failed WAT tests due to external factors such as age, physical ability or terrible lighting.
  • One-Leg Stand (OLS) – Another common field sobriety test is the one-leg stand. A police officer will ask you to stand on one foot about six inches off the ground. Typically, you’ll be instructed to count aloud for 30 seconds in the thousands. You can fail the OLS test because of a variety of outside factors. Some of these include fatigue, disability, or extreme nerves.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) – A lesser known sign of intoxication is the involuntary jerking of the eye known as nystagmus. Law enforcement uses the horizontal gaze nystagmus to measure this phenomenon in DWI stops. Law enforcement will hold an object 12 to 15 inches away from the driver’s eyes. They will then slowly move the object side to side and ask you to track it with your eyes. If you’re impaired by drugs or alcohol, the test is supposed to show if your eyes are in nystagmus. Many factors can skew HGN test results including loud noises, inclement weather or heavy traffic.

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Non-Standardized Field Sobriety Tests in Harris County, Texas

Police officers typically will use the field sobriety tests standardized by the NHTSA. However, you may encounter officers who use additional tests to measure your impairment level. All of these tests aren’t standardized and usually aren’t admissible in court. Despite this, officers still use these tests periodically to measure your physical and mental faculties.

Below are some non-standardized field sobriety tests used by law enforcement:

  • Numbers Backward Test – An officer may ask you to count numbers backwards to test your mental faculties. In some cases, the officer will ask you to count backwards until you reach a certain number. During the test the officer will look for any signs of confusion, slurred speech or misspoken words.
  • Finger-To-Nose Test – This test measures your physical self-awareness. You will be asked to close your eyes, touch your nose with one finger and tilt your head back. Usually, you’ll be asked to repeat this test on each hand three times. The purpose of the test is to see if you’re able to successfully touch your nose without looking. Law enforcement will look for any signs of swaying or confusion.
  • Romberg Balance Test – For this test an officer will instruct you to stand with your feet together, tilt your head back and close your eyes. You will then be asked to wait until 30 seconds have passed and call out stop once it does. The officer will look for signs of impairment such as body tremors, stumbling or confusion at the task.
  • ABC Test – One of the most famous field sobriety tests is the ABC test. Law enforcement will ask you to recite or write alphabet. You may be even asked to recite the alphabet backwards. For this test, police officers will assess you for any slurred speech, missed letters and if your breath smells like alcohol.

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What Happens if You Refuse a Field Sobriety Test in Texas?

A common question for attorneys is; “are you required to take a field sobriety test?” Fortunately, the answer is no. Texas implied consent laws only apply to chemical testing such as breath or blood analysis. You’re allowed to refuse field sobriety tests at any time with no repercussions. In fact, you can even refuse to perform any more exercises halfway through a field sobriety test.

It’s important to remember that refusing a field sobriety tests can lead to some consequences. A law enforcement officer still has the right to arrest you if they have probable cause you’re driving while intoxicated. This means you might be arrested even if you refuse testing.

For some, it’s the best option to refuse testing. You may be held in jail for a short period of time, but the prosecution will have no hard evidence for their case. Spending some time in jail is a lot less of a hassle than managing the statutory penalties of a DWI conviction. It may be beneficial for you to endure one night of detainment then face a DWI.

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Should You Take a Field Sobriety Test?

Ultimately, it’s up to you whether you should comply or refuse field sobriety tests. Each option has its pros and cons. However, if you talk to an attorney the answer will probably be no. Field sobriety tests are by no means flawless and can lead to deceptive results. External factors such as weather, age, or even certain shoes can skew the tests. It may be too risky to submit to field sobriety testing, even if you’re completely sober.

Listed below are some factors that could cause a sober person to fail a field sobriety test.

  • Certain medical conditions;
  • Slippery roads;
  • Fatigue;
  • Age;
  • Prior injuries;
  • Sleep medication;
  • Eye-to-hand coordination;
  • The temperature outside;
  • Bad balance;
  • Some prescription drugs;
  • Extreme nerves and anxiety;
  • Improperly given instructions;
  • Inclement weather during the stop;
  • The lighting around the stop;
  • Physical ability;
  • Certain shoes such as flip-flops;
  • Allergy medication such as Benadryl; and
  • Physical disabilities

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Additional Resources

Instructor Guide to Field Sobriety Testing – Visit the official website of the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) to learn more about standardized field sobriety testing. Gain access to the instructor guide for field sobriety testing to learn more about the walk-and-turn, one-leg stand, and horizonal gaze nystagmus.

Texas DWI Laws – visit the official website of Texas Legislature to find more information surrounding DWI offenses. Access the statutes to learn more about the statutory penalties, admissible defenses and other related offenses.

Lawyer for Field Sobriety Tests in Harris County

If you or someone you know has refused DWI testing, it’s imperative that you contact a skilled immigration attorney. Hiring an attorney can significantly increase your chances of reducing or dismissing your charges. Start your defense today and call Tyler Flood & Associates, Inc..

The attorneys at Tyler Flood & Associates, Inc. have years of experience in Texas criminal courts. We are skilled at representing people accused of driving under the influence. Call us today at (713) 224-5529 to schedule a free consultation. We accept clients throughout the greater Houston area including Tomball, Bellaire, Pasadena and West University Place.

This article was last updated on March 7th, 2019.


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