Can you refuse a field sobriety test? It’s a valid question from anyone who has been pulled over for DWI — whether you’ve been drinking and driving or not.
Field sobriety tests have a bad rap, and rightfully so. Field sobriety tests accuracy issues are rampant; these tests can be difficult to pass even if you’re completely sober (which is one reason why many people have failed a field sobriety test but passed a breathalyzer test).
This being said, it’s only logical to wonder if you can simply refuse to take a field sobriety test. Here’s everything you need to know about your rights to refuse these tests, and whether or not you may want to exercise those rights.
Field sobriety tests in Texas
Before we answer the question, “Can you refuse a field sobriety test?” let’s take a few moments to cover what a Texas field sobriety test looks like.
Horizontal gaze nystagmus test
With the Horizontal Gaze Test, an officer will shine a light in your eye and ask you to follow an object. While you’re following the object, the officer will look for specific eye movements that could indicate alcohol or drug use. However, there are many other situations (flashing lights, health issues, etc) that could negatively impact this specific field sobriety test and ultimately, cause you to fail this test.
An officer may also ask you to walk a line — heel-to-toe — with your hands at your side. Once you make it to the end of the line, they typically ask you to turn around and walk back to them. If you sway or lose your balance at all, they’ll likely take this as a sign that you’ve been drinking. However, just as there are issues with the Horizontal Gaze Test, there are also issues with the Walk the Line test. It may not be as easy as you think to walk a straight line, heel-to-toe, with your hands at your side — even if you are sober.
One-leg stand test
Another test you may be asked to complete is the one-leg stand test. This consists of you standing on one leg for around 30 seconds, without swaying or putting your leg back down. Balancing on one leg can be difficult for anyone, but imagine if you have health issues, if you’re overweight, or if you’re not particularly balanced… passing this test quickly goes from difficult to near impossible.
Can you refuse a field sobriety test?
So now that we understand how subjective and difficult it is to pass a field sobriety test, the next logical question is: Can you refuse a field sobriety test?
Luckily, you can. You are not legally obligated to follow through with a field sobriety test, and you can refuse to take one. Refusing a field sobriety test does not break implied consent laws like refusing a BAC test. And if, as we mentioned earlier, a police officer shines a light in your eye and decides to conduct a test without telling you, you can still decline to be involved. Politely let the officer know that you do not consent to this test and request that they stop.
Remember, you are likely on camera. Don’t get angry, and don’t be over the top about your refusal. Remain calm.
Can you be arrested if you refuse a field sobriety test?
If you refuse a field sobriety test, the police can’t arrest you for that reason alone. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still be arrested. In fact, you probably will be arrested. A police officer only needs probable cause for DWI arrest, and a field sobriety test isn’t the end-all-be-all of probable cause.
Now, you may be wondering If you pass a field sobriety test, do you have to take a breathalyzer test? If you do refuse the Texas field sobriety test, you can almost guarantee that a breathalyzer or blood test is in your near future. When it comes to these tests, in particular, implied consent laws do dictate that you are required to take a breathalyzer or blood test if there is reasonable suspicion that you’ve been drinking and driving (although you cannot be forced to take a test without a warrant or your verbal consent).
Pro Tip: If you’re deciding between a breathalyzer or blood test, we almost always recommend the breathalyzer. Check out our articles to learn more about why “do not blow” is bad advice and what to do if you’ve been DWI with .15 blood alcohol content.
Charged with DWI? Contact Thiessen Law Firm.
Passing a field sobriety test can be so difficult that many people are left wondering, “Does anyone ever pass a field sobriety test?” Well, yes, they do, but it certainly isn’t easy. Regardless, a failed sobriety test does not automatically lead to a “Guilty” charge. You can overcome a DWI charge even if you failed a field sobriety test.
Thiessen Law Firm’s Triple Board Certified Lawyer-Scientist Mark Thiessen has successfully achieved over 100 Not Guilty verdicts and thousands of dismissals for DWI cases, making ours the go-to law firm for DWI in Houston.
If you’ve been charged with a DWI, we can help. Call us at 713-864-900 or contact our team online today.
More Helpful Articles by Thiessen Law Firm:
- Houston Marijuana Laws
- Seeking Probation for Intoxication Manslaughter
- Do I Need a Lawyer for a DWI in Texas?
- DWI Mistakes to Avoid
- Mark Thiessen: Top Expungement Attorney in Texas