If you are stopped, and the officer suspects you are driving while intoxicated, they are almost always going to ask you take Field Sobriety Tests. Those are series of standarized tests, that include:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), which looks at your eyes
  • Walk and Turn
  • One Leg Stand

Few officers ask you take these tests. Instead, they simply direct to do so. The first direction usually includes moving to a location where they can adminster the HGN. If you don't know, you would probably think you are required to take these tests. That assumption is WRONG, but unfortunately few people know they can refuse.

Why would you want to refuse? For starters, the tests have never been "peer reviewed" and verified, which means their scientific validity has never been established. Officers are even told in training that there are "error rates", which means the tests will identify someone as intoxicated who isn't. 

Another reason is that while the tests appear to be objective, much of the scoring is subjective. That means whether you pass or fail can depend on how an officer evaluates youro actions. You also are scored only on what you do wrong; you don't get credit for the things you do right.

The final reason is that the tests are basically coordination tests. If you think about it, the tests require you to do abnormal actions to determine d you're normal. How many times do you walk down a line heel to toe, or stand on one leg and count. 

So the question is whether you should take them. My answer is almost always no. There are reasons for that, other than you might be intoxicated. One reason is that most times, the officer has already decided you are intoxicated, and is simply looking for intoxication. Not only can that influence how they score the tests, they don't have to let you go even if they give you a passing score. I've had cases where individuals "passed", but were still arrested.

Everyone should know their Rights. That includes the right to say NO to Field Sobriety Tests.

If you've been arrested for DWI and want a FREE written case evaluation, fill out our form at Do I have a Defense?. If you would like to schedule an appointment to talk with us about your case, give us a call at 254-296-0020.

Walter Reaves
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Criminal Defense Attorney Walter Reaves has been practicing law for over 35 years.