An officer may pull you over even for a minor traffic violation, but if they suspect you have been driving while intoxicated (DWI), they will most likely investigate further. They will first look for signs of intoxication, such as bloodshot eyes, the smell of alcohol or slurred speech.
Once they can reasonably and justifiably suspect that you have been drinking, they may ask you to step out of the vehicle to conduct standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs). While you cannot refuse to step out of your car, you can legally refuse to submit to the SFSTs in Texas.
Should you refuse to submit to SFSTs?
It is your choice. However, these tests are notoriously difficult even for a sober person to perform and are not even 100% reliable. An officer may not even ask your permission to administer the SFSTs and instead say they will run some tests to ensure “you are okay to drive.” You should be able to recognize when an officer starts recording and administering the tests, so you know when to refuse. Below are the three standard field sobriety tests:
- The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN) or the eye test
- The walk-and-turn test
- The one-leg-stand test
You may want to refuse to submit to SFSTs because it will give an officer more material evidence to use when they build a case against you. The officer will probably arrest you regardless of whether you submit to the tests, so it might be better to avoid incriminating yourself further.
If you do refuse, refuse politely
When an officer starts the HGN test (or any test) on you, you can politely inform them that you do not wish to participate. The officer may be capturing everything on audio and video, so you should always exhibit proper decorum. After all, you would not want to pick a fight with a law enforcement officer who already has reason to believe you have been driving while intoxicated. Save the fighting for when you have a legal defense ready.