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Should You Take a Field Sobriety Test in Austin?

Alcohol, DWI

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Should You Take a Field Sobriety Test in Austin?

Imagine driving home through Austin and suddenly seeing flashing police lights in your rearview. Being pulled over by the police can be stressful and intimidating, especially when you are being pulled over under suspicion of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI).

One common way that police officers assess a driver’s impairment is through field sobriety tests (FSTs). But should you agree to FSTs? What happens if you refuse a FST? Understanding your rights and the effects of FSTs is key, especially in a city with rigorous DWI enforcement like Austin.

What Are Field Sobriety Tests?

Police officers use field sobriety tests to evaluate potential impairment in drivers who are suspected of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Purpose of Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests aim to assess a person’s balance, coordination, attention level, and physical ability. Law enforcement officers use these standard indicators to determine whether a driver is impaired.

Types of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

Three standardized field sobriety tests are commonly used during a DWI stop in Austin. The officer who stops you may even carry a field sobriety test card listing the directions they will verbally provide for the FSTs. The most common field sobriety tests used during a DWI stop in Austin are:

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)

This standardized field sobriety test involves an officer observing a driver’s eyes as they slowly move a pen (or other object) horizontally in front of the driver’s face. The officer is checking for involuntary jerking of your eye, which can be a sign of intoxication.


In the walk-and-turn test, the driver is instructed to walk in a straight line for nine steps, heel-to-toe, then turn on one foot and return similarly. This standardized field sobriety test looks at balance, the driver’s ability to follow directions, and the ability to perform tasks that require divided attention.

One-Leg Stand

The driver must stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground and count out loud by thousands until told to put the foot down. This standardized field sobriety test aims to measure the driver’s balance and attention.

Are you facing a DWI charge in Austin, Texas? Contact an Austin DWI defense attorney to start building your case and get your life back.

Your Right to Refuse FSTs in Texas

Can you refuse a field sobriety test? Understanding your rights during a DWI stop can significantly impact your Austin DWI case.

Voluntary Participation

  • No Legal Requirement: Field sobriety tests are completely voluntary in Texas. Drivers are not legally required to submit to FSTs when stopped on suspicion of DWI in Austin.

What Happens If You Refuse A Field Sobriety Test

  • No Direct Penalties: While many assume that refusing a field sobriety test could lead to severe DWI penalties, Texas law does not impose direct penalties (such as fines or DWI license suspension) just for refusing the test.

Implications of Failing FSTs

  • Risk of Incriminating Evidence: Not taking field sobriety tests can be a strategic decision. Participating and failing the tests can provide evidence of a driver’s impairment, which can be used against you in court.
  • Case Impact: In comparison, refusing to take the test does not generate this direct evidence and can potentially result in a weaker case for prosecution.

Have you already taken the FSTs? Reach out to a criminal defense attorney today to build a strong defense for your case against DWI in Austin.

Considering the Risks and Benefits

When stopped for a DWI in Austin, drivers must decide whether to comply with the officer’s request to perform field sobriety tests. It is important to weigh the pros and cons of this decision and be aware of what could happen if you refuse a field sobriety test.

Benefits of Taking FSTs

Appearing Cooperative

Some Austin drivers will agree to perform field sobriety tests to appear cooperative. Complying with the police might lead to a more favorable report.

Potential Influence on Officer’s Perception

Although it’s a gamble, some drivers believe cooperating with law enforcement will create a positive impression, potentially impacting the officer’s interpretation of the DWI stop in Austin.

However, it’s important to recognize that these benefits are highly speculative and do not guarantee Austin drivers a favorable outcome, such as preventing a DWI arrest.

Risks of Taking FSTs

Participating in field sobriety tests introduces some risks that could complicate your DWI case.

Performance In Stressful Situations

Nervousness, fatigue, and physical conditions unrelated to alcohol consumption can severely affect a driver’s FST performance. Even completely sober drivers might struggle with balance or coordination tasks in a stressful situation.

Subjectivity of the FSTs

The evaluation of FSTs is also subjective. An officer’s judgment may be influenced by their training, expectations, or biases, potentially concluding that a driver is impaired even in questionable situations.

Strengthening the Prosecution’s DWI Case

If you fail these tests, the results become a part of the evidence against you. This can significantly strengthen the prosecution’s case, providing them with tangible evidence to suggest impairment.

The decision to take or refuse these tests involves weighing these potential benefits against the risks. Drivers should carefully consider their options, keeping in mind that the consequences of this choice can impact the outcome of their DWI case. Contact an Austin DWI defense attorney to discuss your case and rights.

Making an Informed Decision on Field Sobriety Tests

So, should you take a field sobriety test? Deciding whether to take a field sobriety test during a DWI stop in Austin requires drivers to consider their situation carefully. Here are key points to think about before making your choice:

  • Consider the Consequences: While refusing a field sobriety test may lead to an arrest, it’s important to remember that refusal is not an admission of guilt.
  • Avoid Providing Evidence: Taking and failing a field sobriety test can provide evidence against you, which the prosecution can use in your DWI case.
  • Assess the Situation: Each DWI stop is different, and your decision should be based on your situation, such as your physical condition and the reason for the stop.

The Role of a DWI Lawyer in Austin

Consulting with a qualified DWI lawyer in Austin is key for DWIs. Here’s how an Austin DWI attorney can assist you during a DWI case:

  • Personalized Legal Advice: A skilled DWI Austin attorney can provide guidance tailored to the specifics of your case. This includes reviewing the details of your DWI stop and any interactions with law enforcement to build a strong defense for you.
  • Navigating Legal Complexities: DWI laws can be complex, and an experienced Austin DWI attorney will navigate the legal system to advocate on your behalf effectively.
  • Strategic Decision-Making: Your DWI lawyer in Austin can help you make strategic decisions, such as whether to submit to FSTs, based on an understanding of Texas law and the details of your situation.

By making an informed decision about field sobriety tests and engaging a skilled DWI Austin attorney, you can significantly impact the outcome of your DWI case. 

Protect Your Rights During a DWI Stop in Austin

Deciding whether to submit to field sobriety tests in Austin can significantly affect your DWI case’s outcome. Remember, under Texas law, you can refuse to take these tests. If faced with the decision to take a field sobriety test, consider seeking immediate legal help from an experienced DWI lawyer in Austin. Contact Lance Kennedy for a Free Case Review to discuss your case and explore what options are available to you.