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Can drivers refuse to perform field sobriety tests in Texas?

On Behalf of | Apr 9, 2024 | Drunk Driving |

A driver pulled over by a police officer knows they could be in trouble. Officers often write tickets after conducting traffic stops based on what they witnessed a driver doing. In more serious cases, they may arrest a driver for a severe traffic violation. Driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses are among the most serious traffic violations regularly reported in Texas. A DWI offense is a criminal issue, not just a simple traffic violation. People may face criminal charges and the potential of having a criminal record if an officer arrests them for a DWI.

As soon as an officer begins to suspect chemical intoxication, they may begin looking for evidence to support that belief. One way police officers help to prove that someone has had too much to drink involves the administration of field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests gauge someone’s intoxication based on their physical abilities. Do drivers have to submit to such testing during traffic stops in Texas?

People may misunderstand the law

Members of the public generally need to cooperate with law enforcement except when doing so could violate their rights. Those who don’t know the law may acquiesce in cases where they don’t need to do so.

Texas does have an implied consent law that relates to chemical testing. Licensed drivers on public roads have effectively already given their implied consent to undergo chemical tests if police officers have probable cause to believe they are under the influence. In other words, once an officer arrests someone for a DWI, it is a separate legal violation to refuse a chemical test.

The implied consent law only applies when an officer has lawful grounds for a DWI arrest. It also only applies to chemical testing and not to field sobriety tests. The law in Texas does not mandate that drivers submit to field sobriety testing. Drivers can decline testing if it makes them uncomfortable to exit their vehicle. They should not face immediate arrest or any secondary consequences for refusing to perform field sobriety tests.

Drivers who are aware of their rights are in a better position to assert them during a DWI traffic stop. Learning more about Texas law and limits on police authority may benefit those who enjoy alcohol safely but worry about encountering officers on the road.