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Secrets of the Texas Criminal Justice System and Your Rights
If a police officer stops a driver on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, it is likely they will be asked to perform a field sobriety test. The tests used are those standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Taking a field sobriety test is not mandatory under Texas law, and the results of the test can be used against the driver in court. For that reason, it is usually not in the driver’s best interests to undergo such a test.
Whether or not you took a field sobriety test when stopped by law enforcement, it is crucial that you contact a DWI attorney as soon as possible.
Different Types of Field Sobriety Tests
In Texas, the field sobriety test consists of checking a driver’s reflexes, balance and mental state. A law enforcement officer may ask a driver to leave the vehicle and perform one or more of the following actions:
- Stand on one leg
- Walk nine steps in a straight line, then turn
- Count on their fingers
- Follow a moving object with their eyes – formally known as horizontal gaze nystagmus.
For horizontal gaze nystagmus, the officer will generally use a flashlight or pen, and looks to see if the driver’s eyes jerk or are unable to follow the object.
The more tests are conducted, the more accurate a police officer may consider the level of impairment. Drivers can legally refuse a field sobriety test, but such a refusal will likely result in arrest. Unlike refusing to take a breath test – which results in an automatic six month license suspension – refusing to take a field sobriety test should not penalize the driver. Drivers do not have the right to an attorney’s counsel until they are placed in custody.
Under the Texas Penal Code Title 10, Chapter 49, an initial conviction for a DWI can result in jail time ranging from three to 180 days, a fine of up to $2,000 and a license suspension of a minimum 90 days up to one year.
There are additional fees of $1,000 to $2,000 each year for three years to keep the driver’s license. If a child under age 15 is in the vehicle, the penalties may include up to two years in jail, up to a $10,000 fine and a six-month license suspension. Subsequent offenses provide harsher penalties.
Challenging Field Sobriety Tests
Anyone charged with a DWI after taking a field sobriety test needs an aggressive, knowledgeable attorney to protect their rights. Field sobriety tests are subjective, and difficult to pass even if the person has not been drinking.
A person with underlying health issues, including obesity, may not pass these tests when completely sober. An attorney will delve into a client’s medical history to see if there are physical reasons for not passing the test.
Under Texas law, law enforcement officers conducting field sobriety tests must obtain certification. A Texas DUI attorney will investigate to ensure the officer conducting the test was indeed properly certified.
Talk to a DWI Attorney Today
If your or a loved has taken a field sobriety test and were charged with drunk driving, you need the services of a DWI attorney. Contact our law firm today for a free consultation. We will review you case and advise you of your options going forward.