You aren’t required to take a field sobriety test in Texas (and it’s probably in your interests to decline one), but it’s important to understand other things you must do when you’re pulled over for DWI.
For example, you’re required to pull over when a police officer indicates with their lights and/or siren that they intend to stop you. You must also show the police officer your driver’s license and confirm your name, address, and date of birth. Lastly, being pulled over by the police means you’re being detained until you’re told you’re free to go. While detained, you must comply with the officer’s lawful orders, such as getting out of your vehicle, when requested.
Between this point and an arrest, however, you aren’t required to do much else. This is extremely important to understand because it means you aren’t legally required to take a breathalyzer test until you’re arrested. You also don’t have to answer any of the police officer’s questions that go beyond basic biographical information found on your driver’s license (i.e., “How much have you had to drink tonight?” or “Can’t you smell the alcohol on your own breath?”).
The police count on people giving up these important rights because they feel intimidated by the DWI investigation process and are eager to “prove” they aren’t intoxicated. Realistically, blowing on a breathalyzer before you have to, or answering any questions you aren’t required to answer, are just giving the police more material they can use to justify your arrest.
For the same reason, they count on people complying with field sobriety tests.
The Problem with Field Sobriety Tests
You aren’t required to take a field sobriety test under any circumstances. Whether you’re being detained or placed under arrest, you do not have to participate in a field sobriety test. Such a test can involve following a police officer’s flashlight or pen with your eyes, standing on one leg, or walking a certain distance, turning, and walking back.
The problem with field sobriety tests is that their “results” completely depend on the officer’s interpretation, which generates false positives that lead to unnecessary arrests. Even if you aren’t arrested, complying with a field sobriety test only gave the police evidence they could have used to arrest you.
For example, not everyone is of equal physical ability, and most field sobriety tests require physical activity involving balance. Field sobriety tests don’t take each person’s unique physical ability, disability, or environmental factors as basic as uneven pavement into account. Such factors can mean the difference between whether or not someone goes to jail.
What Should I Do When a Cop Tells Me to Do a Field Sobriety Test?
Simply say no. Because you are not legally required to participate in a field sobriety test, you can safely decline to participate in one without fear of legal repercussions. Unlike refusing a test of your breath or blood after an arrest, refusing to take a field sobriety test will not result in a license suspension or any other penalties.
If the police officer believes they have enough probable cause to arrest you for DWI without the field test, however, so they may do so. If that happens, then you must take a breathalyzer test when prompted.
If you are arrested, seek immediately legal assistance. You can call (817) 997-4366 for help from our experienced lawyers at Alband, Lane & Balderrama.