The Truth About Field Sobriety Tests
The importance of your actions, your rights, and your next steps.
Getting pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving can cause stress and worry for many different reasons: fear of arrest, confusion about your rights, and, most of all, anxiety about the Field Sobriety test. However, while many people have heard of Field Sobriety tests, very few understand their rights and just how important their performance of this test can be.
One thing that many people do not know, and officers often do not mention, is that taking a Field Sobriety test is not mandatory. It is completely up to you whether or not you decide to take it. However, there are a few things you need to know before you decide:
Your words and actions are very important
Even if you agree to take the Field Sobriety test, your actions and words are still a strong determining factor in whether or not the officer will arrest you on DWI charges, so be smart about what you say. Do not try and talk yourself out of the situation, and more importantly, do not lie about whether or not you have been drinking. Telling the officer that you had a beer or two is not enough by itself to get you arrested. Also, it will help to explain the smell of alcohol that may be on your breath or in your car.
What many people do not understand is that the number of drinks you’ve had is not nearly as important as when you had those drinks. Studies have shown that healthy people metabolize alcohol at a fairly consistent rate. The average male will eliminate around one drink (or 15 ml) per hour. Therefore, if the officer asks how much you had to drink, five beers over the course of five hours sounds a less incriminating than just saying five beers.
You do not have to take a Field Sobriety test
Texas state law does not require that you perform any type of test if you are pulled over. However, you should know that if you refuse to take a Field Sobriety test, it is very likely that the officer who pulled you over will arrest you. With that being said, if you know that you can pass a Field Sobriety test, taking into account all the circumstances surrounding the request, it is recommended that attempt it. If you pass, the officer should let you continue on your way.
However, if you are completely unsure of what to do, consider responding to the officer by stating, “Officer, I would like to contact a lawyer before deciding whether or not to take these tests.” It is very unlikely that the officer will grant you this request, but at least you did not outright refuse to perform.
When someone refuses to take a Field Sobriety test, the argument that many prosecutors try to make is that this was because you knew you could not perform well due to your intoxication level. However, if you first asked to contact a lawyer, you could make the argument that you made a logical decision by exercising your normal mental capability in wanting legal advice.
You can be arrested even if you pass your Field Sobriety test
The only thing that an officer needs to arrest you is Probable Cause―the state of Texas states that Probable Cause exists when “facts and circumstances within (an) officer’s knowledge, and of which he has reasonable trustworthy information, are sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that a particular person has committed or is committing an offense.”
In short, DWI is an opinion crime, so if in the officers opinion, you did not pass the Field Sobriety tests, he or she can arrest you. The reason behind this could be something as simple as swaying while standing on one foot, something that people do all the time while sober.
The bottom line is that many police officers would rather be safe than sorry when it comes to drunk driving, regardless of how well you performed the Field Sobriety test. This is one of the most vital reasons, among many other, that it is important to hire an experienced DWI lawyer.
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