Field Sobriety Tests

Attorney RJ HarberWere you stopped on suspicion of drunk driving in Texas? Did the officer administer a field sobriety test? Experienced criminal defense attorney RJ Harber represents people in Dallas and the surrounding areas who have been arrested and charged with DWI.

It is not uncommon for people to be unfamiliar with field sobriety tests and their rights in Texas. The breath or blood analysis that many people are familiar with is not the only kind of test a police officer may ask an alleged offender to perform. Many officers will also ask people to submit to field sobriety tests, which are much more flawed procedures intended to determine possible impairment.

Unlike the chemical tests that a person can face criminal and civil penalties for refusing, there is no consequence for refusing to submit to field sobriety tests. Considering how easily even a sober person could commit an error in the performance of a field sobriety test, there is very little to be gained by agreeing to comply with this law enforcement request.

Were you arrested for DWI after submitting to a field sobriety test in the greater Dallas area? Do not assume that you are doomed to be found guilty just because you were arrested. You may have many more defenses available to you than you realize.

The Law Offices of RJ Harber has more than a decade of experience defending people against all kinds of drunk and drugged driving charges. We can review your case when you call (214) 389-1189 or contact us online to set up a free consultation.

Types of Field Sobriety Tests

The Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) battery was the result of research the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began sponsoring in 1975. The battery consists of three tests:

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)

The term nystagmus refers to the involuntary movement of the eye, and this test involves an officer looking for any sudden jerking in the eyes when they are moving side to side.

Walk and Turn

A person is asked to take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line with their arms at their sides. They turn after making nine steps and take nine more heel-to-toe steps along the same line to return to the starting point. During the process, the officer looks to see if the person takes an incorrect number of steps, has to use their arms for balance, steps off the line, does not step heel-to-toe, stops walking, starts too soon, or cannot keep their balance during instructions.

One-Leg Stand

A person will be asked to stand with their feet together and their arms at their side before raising one foot roughly six inches from the ground. They are then asked to look at their foot and count aloud to 30. The officer looks to see if the person puts their foot down before reaching 30, hops up and down, sways while balancing, or has to use their arms to maintain balance.

Even though the SFST battery has NHTSA approval, these tests are by no means flawless. It is routinely pointed out that even stone sober individuals fail these tests because of basic coordination issues, and drivers in particular could be adversely affected by fatigue issues or suddenly trying to become active after long periods of driving.

Some police officers use other field sobriety tests not authorized by NHTSA, and such tests are generally not recognized by courts. Other tests a person could be asked to perform may include an alphabet test in which an individual is asked to recite part of or the entire alphabet in any order, the finger-to-nose test involving a person closing their eyes, tilting their head back, and touching the tip of their nose with the tip of their finger, the Romberg test in which an individual stands with their head back, eyes closed and feet together for 30 seconds, or any kind of counting test.

Your Right to Refuse Field Sobriety Tests

Texas Transportation Code § 724.011 establishes that a person who is arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) is considered to have consented to the taking of one or more specimens of the person’s breath or blood for analysis to determine their breath or blood alcohol concentration (BAC). This is more commonly known as the state’s “implied consent” law, but it applies only to the chemical tests relating to a DWI stop.

It is not uncommon for a person to assume that implied consent applies to all tests requested by police officers. When a person refuses to submit to the taking of a specimen, Texas Transportation Code § 724.015 provides that their driver’s license will be automatically suspended for a minimum of 180 days.

State law in Texas does not place any requirements on people to comply with field sobriety tests. An officer could remark on the lack of cooperation in their police report, but there are generally no administrative or civil consequences for refusal to agree to field sobriety testing.

Too many people assume that when they believe they are sober, it is to their advantage to agree to field sobriety tests. The assumption is that they are not only complying with an officer’s request, but they will also prove they are not intoxicated.

The unfortunate flaw with this logic is that any single error similar to the signs of impairment that officers are looking for mentioned above will usually be deemed an indication of intoxication. As a result, you could be more likely to be charged with DWI, possibly even if a BAC test does not have you over the legal limit.

Contact Us Today

Numerous studies have called attention to the inherent flaws of field sobriety tests, but law enforcement agencies across the nation continue to rely on them when investigating possible drunk driving offenses. Never assume that a mistake committed during a field sobriety test equates to an automatic finding of guilt, as several other circumstances relating to your case could impact the prosecutor’s ability to convict you.

If you were arrested for DWI in Dallas or a surrounding area of Texas after submitting to field sobriety tests, you cannot afford to wait to seek legal representation. An experienced attorney can review any police dashboard camera footage of your performance on field sobriety tests and also look for other possible defenses applicable to your case.

The Law Offices of RJ Harber will fight to possibly get your criminal charges reduced or dismissed. As a former prosecutor, defense attorney RJ Harber has experience on both sides of the aisle, and knows how the prosecution will try to build its case against you. That’s why his clients turn to him for help, and why he has had so much success in getting the charges against them reduced or dropped through his efforts. Call (214) 389-1189 or contact us online to receive a free consultation.