Texas Test Time: What to Expect from Field Sobriety Tests if You’re Pulled Over

If you’ve been pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving, you will likely be asked to take some tests. At some point, you may be asked to provide breath, blood, or urine samples. But first, you will be asked to participate in the standardized field sobriety tests. These tests are intended to test a driver’s ability to continue driving through balance and coordination exercises. You’ve probably seen such tests portrayed in movies or TV shows where people are asked to touch their nose, recite the alphabet or walk in a straight line. The most important thing to remember about these tests is that you DO NOT HAVE TO DO THEM! Yep, that’s right, you may – and should – refuse to perform any of the tests.

Three Types of Tests

Police officers in Texas generally use three types of field sobriety tests. Depending on the circumstances the officer may choose to conduct just one, or all three of the tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has approved these tests for use in determining whether a driver is intoxicated. However, these field tests are notoriously unreliable indicators of an individual’s level of impairment. In fact, many people can’t pass these tests when they’re sober.

These tests are also subjective, meaning they depend on an individual officer’s interpretation rather than hard data like the kind you can get from a blood or breath test. This also means that a skilled DWI defense attorney can attack the credibility and accuracy of the officer’s evaluation of the driver as part of a comprehensive defense strategy.

The three field sobriety tests are:

  • One Leg Stand Test. As the name indicates, the one leg stand test requires the driver to stand and balance on one leg. The individual must stand for approximately 30 seconds while keeping the other leg at least six inches off the ground and the hands close to the body. The officer will request the driver to look at their foot and count out loud; “one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand, etc.”
  • Walk and Turn Test. In the walk and turn test, the officer asks the driver to walk heel-to-toe for nine steps, do a “small series of steps” to turn, then walk back heel-to-toe for nine steps. Many law enforcement officials use the lines painted on the road itself as the line the driver must walk. The walk and turn test is supposed to gauge an individual’s coordination, balance, and ability to follow directions.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is a complicated name for a very simple procedure. An individual is asked to follow a stimulus and the theory is that if someone is intoxicated their eyes will involuntarily jerk, which indicates the presence of alcohol. When a person has consumed a certain level of alcohol, the brain can’t control these types of minute involuntary movements.

Mark Diaz – Texas DWI Defense Lawyer

When you have been charged with DWI, you need an experienced lawyer who focuses exclusively on defending criminal cases and who will aggressively protect your rights. I have witnessed firsthand how a DWI charge and conviction can negatively impact every area of a person’s life. As a lawyer, I consider it a privilege to help people during this stressful time in their lives. Call me today at (409) 515-6170 for a free consultation to discuss your case.