If I’m stopped after drinking alcohol, should I take the field sobriety tests?

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  • March 11, 2016

If I’m stopped after drinking alcohol, should I take the field sobriety tests?

Make sure you always remain calm, cool and collective…even if you are wrongly arrested.

This is one of the most common questions.  And my response is always, “it depends on how much you’ve had to drink.”  My answer is divided into three scenarios-  1. Did you consume a few drinks but are not intoxicated?; 2. Consumed enough to be possibly be over the legal limit but you can do well on the tests?; or 3. Are you flat out wasted and definitely should not have been driving?  Before I explain, let me make it clear I’m not an advocate for drunk driving. And, I do not feel anyone should drive under scenario 3.

First, the officer should ask you to exit the car for field sobriety tests.  The standard field sobriety tests consist of the HGN test, Walk and Turn test and One Leg Stand test.   Officers can also add tests such as the finger to nose test, alphabet (not backwards), counting backwards etc.  If you have had very few drinks, but you are not intoxicated, its better to take the sobriety tests.  This includes a blood test.  However, if you cannot pass the balance tests for any reason, intoxication, or due to other medical, physical or any other conditions, respectfully refuse the test.  Refusing all tests can and often is interpreted as a sign of being intoxicated….whether you are sober or not.  It looks better to pass the tests (or perform well) as opposed to refusing everything.

Recently, a female friend called me as she was getting stopped and asked me what to do.  I asked her how much she had to drink.  She told me, “I swear, only two vodka waters over a two hours.”  As the officer was approaching her car, I told her to do all of the tests and demand a blood test.  I also told her to get ready for the ride to the jail, because she would probably still be arrested.  She preformed extremely well on the field sobriety tests and was still arrested.    Her car was towed.  She had to post bond.  A DWI charge was filed against her.  Months later, her blood test showed her blood alcohol level well under the legal limit.  She was found not guilty at trial and her records were expunged within 30 days.  If she had refused everything, it would have been a more difficult trial to win.

Some clients have told me that other lawyers advised to “always refuse all tests and request a lawyer.”  This is good advice under scenario 3 “flat out wasted.”  But, this is not always good advice.  If my client above had refused everything, it would have been a much more difficult trial to win.  If it’s ever questionable whether you can pass the tests, it’s probably best to respectfully refuse them and request a lawyer.  Then, stop talking!

Dallas DWI Attorney Gary Redman