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Field Sobriety Tests: Your Rights & Texas Law

Updated: May 29, 2023 @ 8:51 pm

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As a seasoned DWI Lawyer serving Brazoria County, I know all too well how complicated it can be for most people to handle a DWI arrest. One of the most common elements of being stopped or arrested for suspicion of DWI is the field sobriety test. The validity and effectiveness of field sobriety tests are always the subject of debates in the legal system.

  • For attorneys, it’s important to understand how the law applies to these situations involving field sobriety tests.
  • For defendants and the general public, knowing your rights is equally as important and can keep you out of a nasty jam in the legal system.

DWI convictions can be costly, but they can be avoided. The best start to avoiding a conviction is by understanding your rights and the law.

What’s a Field Sobriety Test?

If you’re pulled over by the police in Brazoria County on suspicion of drunk driving, you may be asked to subject yourself to field sobriety tests. These are tests to determine whether you’re impaired due to alcohol or other substances.

In Texas, the Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) process typically involves three examinations: the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, where an officer tracks your eye movements; the walk-and-turn test, where you’re asked to walk in a straight line; and the one-leg stand test, in which you’re instructed to stand on one foot while balanced.

Your Rights During a DWI Stop

You have rights when it comes to field sobriety tests in Texas. Here’s what you need to know.

Right to Refuse

First off, you’ve got the right to refuse to participate in a field sobriety test. It’s not a crime to say no to the test. However, refusing to participate could lead to your arrest. Especially if the officer has other reasons to believe you’re under the influence.

Right to Legal Counsel

Should you be arrested following a field sobriety test, you have the right to legal counsel. Texas law, under the Sixth Amendment, gives you the right to have a lawyer present during any questioning.

Field Sobriety Tests & Texas Law

While Texas law doesn’t specifically mention field sobriety tests, it does refer to “probable cause.” This term means the police officer must have a reasonable basis to believe that you’re intoxicated while driving. Your performance during a field sobriety test may contribute to establishing this probable cause.

The Texas Rules of Evidence

Per Rule 402, all relevant evidence is generally admissible, but it’s the court’s discretion to determine if the field sobriety test was administered correctly. If there’s a discrepancy, the evidence may be ruled inadmissible. If this happens in Brazoria County, then the DWI case is usually dismissed.

Understanding Implied Consent

Texas motorists are subject to the “implied consent” law. This particular law is described in Texas Transportation Code Section 724.011. This law states that if you’re lawfully arrested by an officer who has probable cause to believe you were driving while intoxicated, you automatically consent to blood or breath testing to determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

Remember, this is separate from field sobriety tests. The implied consent law applies to chemical tests, not physical or cognitive tests on the roadside. However, if you refuse the roadside tests, which you lawfully can with additional charges or penalties, you’ll probably be arrested anyway.

Challenges to Field Sobriety Test Results

At The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates, we have three strategies that we normally use to challenge field sobriety tests in Angleton & Brazoria County.

Methodology

One of the ways we challenge field sobriety tests is by questioning the methods used by the officer to conduct the test. Were the tests administered according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) guidelines? If they weren’t, the results may be called into question.

Officer Training

The officer’s training can also be challenged. Did the officer who administered your test receive the necessary training to conduct the test properly? Did the officer have the training to interpret the results accurately? When was the officer’s last refresher course? How long has it been since the machine or device was last tested and calibrated?

Depending on the answers to those questions, the evidence may not be admissible or at least subject to a legal challenge.

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions could affect your ability to perform these tests. Factors like neurological disorders, physical injuries, or even your age can impact the results of your field sobriety test. Certain health conditions might even affect your ability to perform the test.

If you have a condition that could have impacted your performance, let us know. This could be a potential defense.

Charged with DWI in Brazoria County?

Contact Attorney Tad Nelson today!

Brazoria DWI Lawyer Tad Nelson operates law offices in Galveston County, League City, and Houston. If you’re facing criminal charges for drunk driving following a field sobriety test, visit us and talk with our legal team. We have lots of experience helping people avoid conviction for DWI in Brazoria County and we can help you too. If you have questions about getting your case dismissed or would like to learn more about your options, contact us today.

We can be reached at 979-267-6081.

Board Certified Texas Criminal Law Attorney

Tad Nelson is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, an ACS/CHAL Lawyer-Scientist, and a forensic toxicology specialist. If you’re looking for the best qualified lawyer for fighting DUI & DWI charges, call us.

Board Certified Texas Criminal Law Attorney

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