Law enforcement officers must have a reasonable suspicion that you violated the law before they legally can pull you over. For example, traffic violations, erratic or reckless driving, or other signs of impairment may cause police officers to make traffic stops. When those traffic stops occur, officers sometimes administer field sobriety tests in Fort Worth DWI cases if they suspect impairment.
The results of field sobriety tests are only one form of evidence that law enforcement officers may use as probable cause to arrest individuals for DWI. Other examples include red eyes, the smell of alcohol, and the results of blood alcohol content (BAC) tests. A criminal defense lawyer may be able to assess the evidence against you and determine which defenses may be applicable in your case.
Law Enforcement Usage of Roadside Tests
Law enforcement officers routinely pull drivers over for traffic violations and other signs that they might be driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. During the traffic stop, the officers look for evidence suggesting that drivers may be intoxicated, such as bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and an odor of alcohol or marijuana. If officers detect signs of impairment, then their next step is likely to request that the drivers submit to field sobriety tests.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has established three exercises that make up the Standardized Field Sobriety Test. According to the NHTSA, the standard battery of tests includes the horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk-and-turn, and one-legged stand tests.
The Standardized Field Sobriety Test
The results of all three tests may provide evidence of impairment. For instance, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test involves moving a pen or flashlight back and forth to determine the ability of the driver’s eyes to follow visual stimuli. A rapid eye jerk in response to the movement may indicate impairment in some drivers.
During the walk and turn test, officers ask drivers to take nine steps heel-to-toe in a straight line, turn around, and then walk back in the same manner. The inability of the driver to comply with these instructions in different ways can be evidence of impairment.
Finally, the one-legged stand test requires drivers to stand on one leg with the other foot at least six inches off the ground while counting for 30 seconds. Whether the driver is successful in completing this task can be indicative of impairment by alcohol or drugs. Fort Worth DWI cases often involve field sobriety tests due to their ability to help law enforcement officers detect impairment.
Field Sobriety Tests as Evidence
Although the NHTSA claims that field sobriety tests are overwhelmingly accurate, the test results are sometimes attributable to issues other than impairment. For example, certain medical conditions or medications for health problems may impact balance and coordination. Even being overly tired can affect someone’s balance or ability to follow directions.
Police officers also may not receive adequate training about how to administer the tests or accurately interpret their results. If officers conduct the tests inappropriately, then the results are less likely to be accurate. New police officers, those who have never performed the tests before, and those who have not undergone proper training are all at risk of improperly administering field sobriety tests.
While drivers may face penalties for refusing to take breathalyzer or blood tests, there are no penalties for refusing to participate in field sobriety tests. As a result, Fort Worth drivers involved in DWI stops will have to make an informed decision about whether to undergo field sobriety tests.
Speak to a Fort Worth Attorney About Challenging Field Sobriety Tests
Administering field sobriety tests in Fort Worth DWI cases is a common practice that most law enforcement agencies nationwide have adopted. However, failing these tests does not always accurately indicate intoxication. In some cases, improper administration of the tests or a lack of adequate training of officers may lead to the invalidation of the test results.
If you were arrested for a DWI based on field sobriety test results, consider retaining a qualified attorney for help. A skilled DWI lawyer may be able to challenge your test results in an effort to resolve your charges.