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Texas Field Sobriety Testing

Texas drivers who are stopped for driving under the influence of alcohol or DUI may be asked by a police officer to submit to a field sobriety test. Field sobriety tests have been standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and currently consist of the walk-and-turn test, the one-leg stand test and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test. The walk-and-turn test is a divided attention test which is used to determine if a Texas driver can simultaneously follow instructions and complete the test. First the police officer will ask the driver to stand heel to toe with their hands at their sides. The driver must wait to start the test until the officer completes the instructions and ask them to begin. To complete the test the driver must walk nine steps forward, heel-to-toe, turn and walk back. The driver must count aloud as they walk. What is the officer observing? The officer is looking to see if the driver can maintain balance, continue walking without stopping, step heel-to-toe, keep their arms to their sides, turn correctly and walk the right number of steps. Police officers have been trained to evaluate the test using specific criteria established by the NHTSA. The NHSTA claims the test is 68% accurate when administered according to their guidelines. The component of the field sobriety test is the one-legged stand test. Like the walk-and-turn test, this is a divided attention test which will test the Texas driver’s ability to perform a series of specific actions. The police officer will give instructions, and the driver must wait to begin the test until instructed to start. The police officer will ask the driver to raise their leg six inches from the ground and count aloud while their foot remains elevated. The police officer is evaluating the driver and determining if they are able to keep their arms at their sides, maintain their balance, and avoid hopping or putting their foot down. According to the NHTSA, this test is 65% accurate when administered according to the guidelines. The final test is called the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, and it is used to measure the involuntary jerking of a driver’s eye which is increased at certain points if the driver is intoxicated. To perform this test the police officer will ask the driver to track a small object, such as a pen or light, as the officer moves it in front of the driver’s face. The police officer is observing the ability of the driver to track the object smoothly. Additionally, the police officer is observing if Nystagmus occurs before the eyes reach a 45 degree angle or if the eye jerks as the driver looks to each side. According to the NHTSA, this test is 77% accurate if it administered according to the NHTSA guidelines. State governments and special interest groups have worked together to standardize and increase penalties for DUI (driving under the influence). Drivers who are arrested for DUI, even first time offenders, may face extreme DUI penalties. If you have been arrested for DUI you should contact a DWI lawyer as soon as possible. DUI convictions may include high fines, mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device, probation, driver’s license suspension, jail time, and mandatory attendance in an alcohol education program.