Can I Refuse to Perform Sobriety Tests in Austin?

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After an evening out in Austin, the last thing on your mind is being pulled over for a traffic violation. You can get pulled over for many reasons, including a taillight being out, driving too slowly, and not having a signal light flashing when changing lanes. These situations may cause a police officer to pull you over because he or she may think you have had one too many drinks.

The stressful situation of a traffic stop may cause you to feel nervous and jittery, and after observing your behavior, the officer may ask you to perform a field sobriety test. When this happens, you may ask yourself, "Can I refuse to perform sobriety tests in Austin?"


What Is a Field Sobriety Test?

Sobriety tests in Austin are intended to help law enforcement determine whether a driver is driving while intoxicated (DWI). These tests aid the officer in determining if the driver's mental attention, physical capacity, and balance and coordination are compromised. How well the driver performs on these tests helps determine if the driver was driving impaired.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) developed three tests called the Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST), which may be performed during a traffic stop:

    • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN)
    • Walk and turn
    • One leg stand

These tests are far from perfect, as there are many factors that may contribute to poor performance on field sobriety tests that do not relate to intoxication. A person with a physical disability, such as multiple sclerosis (a neurological condition), would most likely perform poorly. Environmental conditions due to rocky, uneven ground and unclear instructions by police may also lead to poor performance.


To Refuse or Not to Refuse a Sobriety Test in Austin

In Austin, breathalyzer tests and blood tests to determine blood alcohol concentration (BAC) are preceded by field sobriety tests. An officer will request that you complete a chemical test of your breath or blood if the officer has probable cause to believe you are too impaired to safely operate a vehicle.

Texas is one of the many states that have an "implied consent" law. This means that if you're driving in Austin, you are agreeing to a breath or blood test if a police officer has probable cause to administer one. Texas law requires that you take one of the tests if you are stopped under suspicion of DWI.

In Austin, you can refuse to take sobriety tests, but if you do, you will most likely be arrested and your license could then be suspended for 180 days if this is your first offense or two years for your second offense.

However, there are some benefits to refusing sobriety tests:

    • There is less evidence to prove a DWI charge
    • Your performance on the field sobriety tests could be used against you in court
    • You can fail any of the field sobriety tests and not be intoxicated
    • Police will have to depend on their account of your actions for evidence, which is subjective


The Austin Law Offices of Hines & Holub Can Help

If you have been charged with DWI in Austin, it is important to seek the advice of the experienced and dedicated attorneys of Hines & Holub. Trustworthy and knowledgeable, our lawyers will protect your rights and fight the charges against you.

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