What Are the 3 Field Sobriety Tests? | Drunk Driving in Texas
Driving after drinking or while under the influence of alcohol is never a good idea, especially in the state of Texas.
If a police officer has reasonable suspicion that someone is driving under the influence, they will likely be asked to take part in a field sobriety test. It is important for drivers to understand the three main components of standardized field sobriety tests and how their performance can end up potentially affecting their ability to stay on the road.
It's also important to keep in mind that it's possible for drivers to refuse to partake in any of the tests when pulled over as well.
The One-Leg Stand Test
The one-leg stand test is used to assess following instructions and balance. During this specific field sobriety test, an officer will ask the driver to stand with one foot approximately five to six inches off of the ground and count loudly - "one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two", etc.
Officers typically look for a specific set of clues, such as an inability to follow instructions, hopping, putting the foot down, swaying, or any other indication of an inability to maintain balance.
The Walk-and-Turn Test
This second standardized field sobriety test is the walk-and-turn test, which is considered the most reliable of all field sobriety tests.
During the process, the driver is asked to take nine steps forward, heel-to-toe, turn around, and take nine steps back, all while counting and listening to the instructions given by the police officer.
The suspect is evaluated based on their ability to maintain balance, follow instructions, and walk properly.
The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
In the end, DWI-convicted drivers are made to participate in the HGN test, which law enforcement officers use to determine if a driver is visually impaired.
During this field sobriety test, the officer will ask the driver to look straight ahead and follow an object or light with their eyes.
Police officers then look out for jerking or shaking of the eyes, which may indicate alcohol or drug impairment. If the law enforcer notices three or more signs of nystagmus, it is likely that the driver is impaired and has a high blood alcohol level.
How to Decline a Field Sobriety Test in Texas
Reliable field sobriety tests are usually a part of the SFSTs developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Sparks Law Firm has information on what no refusal weekend in Texas is.
Is a field sobriety test required in Texas? Under Texas law, police officers cannot force drivers to take an FST. Victims have the right to decline. However, it is important to be aware that if someone does decline a field sobriety test, police officers may still have probable cause to charge them with a DWI conviction if proven to have been drinking.
The officer may request the driver to also take a preliminary alcohol screening test (PAS), which is usually a breathalyzer test, as part of their investigation. In all cases, field sobriety testing is voluntary, and drivers have the right to politely decline. However, unlike the field sobriety test, the PAS test is typically part of the arrest process and therefore is not voluntary.
Are Standardized Field Sobriety Tests Mandatory for All?
In Texas, sobriety tests are used to determine whether a driver is impaired. These tests are administered by police officers and involve physical and mental tasks.
The three tests in Texas include the one-leg stand test, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, and the walk-and-turn test.
Even if an officer suspects impairment, the driver does have the right to refuse a walk-and-turn test (or any other, including the one-leg stand test and HGN test). While there are consequences for that refusal, the natural progression of the situation is almost always the same: a search warrant is issued to have a blood alcohol level test done.
While these tests are not mandatory for all drivers, they are recognized and standardized nationally. Knowing how the tests work and how to respond if ever given such an evaluation is important information for any driver. As always, it's best to be prepared for all possible outcomes on the road and contact a DWI attorney as soon as possible.
How Can an Attorney Help Navigate a Preliminary Breath Test?
Finding an attorney who is highly qualified and experienced with DWI/DUI charges is essential.
Drivers should not have to feel anxious and overwhelmed when navigating sobriety tests. With the support of a knowledgeable lawyer, plaintiffs can be confident in their ability to prove innocence and fight for the case.
With the right legal advice, drivers can make sure they are fully supported and protected throughout the process.
The consequences of failing a PAS test are often serious, including jail time and license suspension. That's why it's important for any driver who believes they have been wrongfully accused of driving under the influence to seek the help of an experienced lawyer. A lawyer can review the evidence, fight the claim, and argue for their innocence.
Additionally, an experienced lawyer can help to ensure that any and all insurance coverage is properly sought after in the event of a license suspension and provide advice on the various steps necessary to appeal the decision.
Navigating field sobriety tests in Texas can be a daunting task for drivers. Anyone driving in the state should know that law enforcement officers are dedicated to catching drunk drivers and have the legal authority to administer field sobriety tests in order to determine an individual's sobriety.
The Sparks Law Firm has top DWI lawyers that can help with understanding the details of these sobriety tests and what rights drivers may have can often be the difference between proving their innocence or being wrongly convicted.
The three common tests include the finger-to-nose test (or the horizontal gaze nystagmus test/HGN test), the walk-and-turn test (usually in a straight line), and the one-leg stand test.
It's essential for drivers not to settle for a guilty plea—with the right legal representation, plaintiffs can help make sure they are given a fair opportunity to fight for their claim and prove innocence. Suspected drivers should always contact a qualified attorney and seek a free consultation immediately.