Field Sobriety Tests – DWI

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FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS in Texas Driving While Intoxicated cases (DWI’s)

The police must have “probable cause” to arrest someone for DWI. Typically, the obtain this “probable cause” by having you perform “field sobriety tests”. Usually, these are done before any request for breath or blood samples is made. They are done to try and prove you didn’t have your “normal use of your physical or mental faculties”.

The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) provides guidance for police officers who use field sobriety tests. The tests are combined to provide a suposedly “scientific” probability that the person is intoxicated. Many departments add their own tests, but the three tests listed below are the standardized tests that most departments use:

1) HGN: is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test.

This test is done to see if there is any jerkiness in your eye or lack of smooth pursuit. They hold an object (a pen, or something similar), in front of the subject, and ask them to hold their head still and follow the pen with only the eyes.

In order to get a valid result, the test must be performed correctly. Often the tests are improperly administered.

2) Walk and Turn (WAT): This test is where the officer has you walk an imaginary straight line, turn a certain way, and then walk back across this imaginary straight line. If, in the officer’s opinion, you step off this invisible line, this is one of the clue’s they count against you. They also test your ability to follow directions, your turn, your balance, swaying, among other things.

3) One Leg Stand (OLS): This test has the subject standing on one leg for 30 seconds. The officer judges the person’s ability to follow directions, as well as their ability to actually perform the test.

Field Sobriety tests are designed to make you fail. Sober people can obviously fail these tests for innocent reasons – health issues, nervousness, fear, all can cause you to test differently than you normally would.

Below are some funny videos that drive home the point of just how silly some of these field sobriety tests can be (just a little humor) about field sobriety tests. I know your DWI is not funny, but these videos are:

Cowboy doing Field Sobriety Test (from Reno 911):

Steve Martin’s DWI Test (from the Man with Two Brains):