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Can you refuse to take a field sobriety test?

On Behalf of | Apr 30, 2024 | Drunk Driving |

Texas is stringent on DWIs. Even a first offense comes with harsh penalties. 

However, you also have rights, and it’s crucial that you understand what is and isn’t legally required during a traffic stop.

Reasonable suspicion

DWI checkpoints are illegal in Texas. Therefore, law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion that someone is driving impaired.

Field sobriety tests are a series of physical and cognitive exercises that law enforcement can use to assess a driver’s level of impairment. Common tests include:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), in which the officer has you cover one eye and use the other eye to follow an object as the officer moves it through your field of vision
  • Walk-and-turn to see if the you can follow a straight line and your ability to follow directions
  • One-leg stand to gauge balance 

While these tests can provide evidence of impairment, they are also subjective. Various factors unrelated to alcohol consumption, such as medical conditions, nervousness or fatigue, can influence them.

In Texas, drivers do have the right to refuse to participate in field sobriety tests. There are no legal penalties for refusal, but you may still be arrested for DWI if the offer has other evidence of impairment, such as the smell of alcohol, slurred speech or erratic driving behavior.

However, a Texas driver’s license comes with implied consent, and there are penalties for refusing a chemical test (breath, blood or urine).

There are pros and cons to refusing a field sobriety test. If you are charged with a DWI, there may be less evidence against you. But refusal can be seen as uncooperative, and while you can’t be penalized, your refusal can be mentioned in court and may affect how the court views your case.

If you’re pulled over for a suspected DWI in Texas, you have a critical decision to make regarding field sobriety tests. And if you are arrested, you will want to discuss your case with someone who can guide you and help protect your rights.