Field Sobriety Testing and DWI Convictions in Texas: What You Need to Know

Being stopped by the police and questioned about whether one has imbibed alcohol before getting behind the wheel of the car is intimidating and terrifying. In many cases when this happens, a police officer will ask the detained to comply with a field sobriety test, blood or breath alcohol testing, or both. Field sobriety testing is hotly debated, as there are some methods that are sanctioned and others that are not. What’s more, errors made in testing can skew results. Here’s what you should know about being asked to take a field sobriety test, the types of tests that are sanctioned, and what to do if the results of a field sobriety test are being used against you to attempt to secure a driving while intoxicated (DWI) conviction in Houston.

Consequences for Failing to Take a Field Sobriety Test

The first thing that you should know about being asked to take a field sobriety test is that you are not legally required to comply with the request. You may legally refuse to take a field sobriety test in Houston; in fact, politely refusing to take the test is probably within your best interests. There is no penalty for refusing to take a field sobriety test.

While you will not be automatically penalized for failing to take a field sobriety test, you may still be arrested on DWI charges. You will also likely be asked to submit to a blood/breath alcohol test—you will need to comply with this request if you want to avoid the automatic consequence of refusal, which is a license suspension.

Three Validated Types of Field Sobriety Tests

There are numerous different tests that officers in Texas may administer to try to collect evidence against someone suspected of a DWI; however, there are only three types of field sobriety tests that are standardized and validated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These are the:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test;
  • Walk-and-turn test; and
  • One-leg stand test.

If you are administered a test other than one of the three above, such as being asked to recite the alphabet backward, the finger-to-nose test, or the counting test, you are being asked to submit to a testing method that is not validated by the NHTSA.

Can I Be Convicted Based on the Results of My Field Sobriety Test?

If you fail a field sobriety test, you may be arrested on DWI charges. However, whether or not the evidence is enough to convict you is a different story. In order to secure a conviction, the prosecution must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving while intoxicated. If there is any evidence that the police administered a non-sanctioned field sobriety test, or that they administered a sanctioned test improperly, this evidence may be thrown out and not eligible for use against you. What’s more, if the prosecution doesn’t have other forms of evidence—such as the results of a blood alcohol test—or if there are other plausible reasons for your failure of a field sobriety test (such as a medical condition), charges may be dropped or reduced, or you may be found not guilty. Working with a skilled DWI attorney in Houston who knows what to look for, how to protect your Constitutional rights, and the nuances of field sobriety tests and DWI law is critical for protecting your best interests.

Call Attorney Tad Nelson Today

If you’ve been charged with a DWI, call Attorney Tad Nelson directly today for the criminal defense support you need and deserve. Don’t hesitate to get our Houston DWI attorney on your side.