Should you refuse field sobriety tests if you get pulled over?

On Behalf of | Jul 14, 2023 | Blog, Criminal Defense

Whether you are driving after a night out on the town or simply heading home from work after a long day, if the police pull you over your anxiety likely spikes. That anxiety only escalates if an officer requests you perform a field sobriety test.

You may wonder if you can refuse to do a field sobriety test. Understanding your rights can provide some clarity in such intense situations.

Understanding field sobriety tests in Texas

According to the Texas Department of  Public Safety, police across the state make approximately 90,000 arrests for DUI charges each year, and many of those arrests happen after the police conduct field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests, designed to assess potential impairment due to alcohol or drugs, often include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk-and-turn and the one-leg stand. These tests aim to provide evidence of impairment, but they come with their own set of controversies due to accuracy concerns.

Despite their widespread use, field sobriety tests have inherent inaccuracies. Conditions such as poor lighting, rough road surfaces and even an individual’s natural physical limitations can affect test results, leading to false positives. Consequently, a sober person might fail the test and face charges unfairly.

Your rights regarding field sobriety tests

In Texas, you have the right to refuse a field sobriety test. Law enforcement cannot compel you to take one without your consent. However, refusal may lead the officer to suspect you have something to hide.

Although refusal might seem like the simplest option, it carries potential consequences. The police officer may view your refusal as a probable cause for arrest, and you could take you into custody. Moreover, the police could use your refusal against you later in court, suggesting a potential admission of guilt.

Deciding whether to perform field sobriety tests can be a stressful one. It is a decision you must make on the spot, under pressure. However, informed decisions start with understanding and knowing your rights can help you navigate these difficult situations with confidence.