If you get pulled over by a law enforcement officer in Texas, it can be intimidating to refuse to do what they say. Most likely, you have only seen these types of interactions on television. Despite your fears, though, refusing is sometimes in your best interest.
Case-in-point? Field sobriety tests.
The vast majority of Texans agree to take these tests when pulled over – but they shouldn’t, and they are not legally required to do so.
In this post, we’re going to go over how field sobriety tests work, the law, and why you should just say no.
What Is a Texas Field Sobriety Test?
These types of tests are designed to gauge whether or not a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They do not use chemical evidence (blood, breath, or urine), but instead physical evidence like your ability to walk or stand.
Specifically, you will be asked to do things like stand on one foot and walk in a straight line, and the officer will shine a light in, and the officer will shine a light in your eyes to determine your level of intoxication.
Field sobriety tests are conducted “in the field” where you are pulled over, and the results are based on the subjective opinion of the officer administering them.
Are Field Sobriety Tests Effective?
Despite having their own potential problems, chemical tests can objectively tell whether a person has alcohol or controlled substances in their blood. Field sobriety tests, in contrast, offer less hard evidence. In many cases, the results are dependent on the officer’s testimony.
Someone who is given physical tests (include gazing, walking, or touching the person’s face) may fail due to unrelated factors, including medical health conditions or the use of prescription medicines. It is also common for drivers to “fail” the test due to nerves – or even road conditions (after all, you’re asked to focus and walk in a straight line while cars are zooming by on the road next to you).
In short, field sobriety tests are set up so that a driver will fail. If the driver does fail, the law enforcement officer can use this evidence against them in court. Basically, taking field sobriety tests is like digging your own grave.
Do I Have to Take a Field Sobriety Test in Texas?
In short, no.
Law enforcement officers do not have the right to search for evidence without your consent unless they have a warrant. Field sobriety tests are a form of “searching” for evidence.
Unfortunately, you may get arrested if you refuse the field sobriety test, but this is not the law, and you should not let this deter you from refusing field sobriety tests if you are pulled over. Chances are, if an officer is asking you to take field sobriety tests, they’ve already decided they want to arrest you and they’re just trying to get more evidence.
Don’t give them any extra ammunition. Once you are arrested and charged, prosecutors have to use evidence to prove that you are guilty of DWI. Without evidence from the field sobriety test, they will have a harder time arguing that you were driving under the influence at the time of your arrest.
DWI stops can feel like choosing the lesser of two evils. Choosing to take the field sobriety test may appear to help you in the moment, but it really doesn’t.
What Are “No Refusal” Weekends?
You may have heard about “no refusal” weekends on the news. The term is misleading, though.
Many drivers think that if they are pulled over on a “no refusal” weekend, they have to consent to testing. This is untrue. “No refusal” weekends simply give law enforcement officers more resources to obtain a search warrant on the spot. If the police can get a warrant soon after you have been pulled over, then you have to comply with their orders – but not before.
Do not worry about random “no refusal” weekends, either. These times are reserved for major holidays or events where people tend to drink in excess (i.e. the Super Bowl). Most likely, you will hear about “no refusal” weekends online or on the news in advance.
Worried About Texas DWI Stops?
If you are especially concerned about DWI stops and “No Refusal” weekends, we have two words for you: don’t drive. Use rideshares or recruit a designated driver to help you get home.
Drivers that have already been arrested or charged with DWI should contact a defense lawyer immediately in order to fight charges.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.