Texas Field Sobriety Tests: What to do and What to Expect

Texas field sobriety test is not a term many people are familiar with — but even so, you’ve probably seen a field sobriety test performed on COPS or Reno 911. From the safety of your couch, those tests might look easy. So easy that when you see flashing lights in your rearview mirror after a night out drinking with friends, you might consider taking a sobriety test, thinking it’ll be easy to pass it.

Big mistake. DWI field sobriety tests can be difficult for even sober people to pass. Before you say yes to a roadside sobriety test, make sure you know your rights, what you’re agreeing to, and what the police are looking for.

Your rights during a Texas field sobriety test

Did you know you can refuse a Texas field sobriety test? The police may try to convince you otherwise, but it’s perfectly legal to say no to taking a roadside sobriety test in Texas. In fact, many times it’s the right call (even though, thanks to the implied consent law in Texas, the immediate outcome might not be fun).

Roadside DWI tests are designed for you to fail, because if you fail, then the police have an excuse to obtain a warrant. It’s safe to assume, then, that if a police officer pulls you over and asks you to take a Texas field sobriety test, they have already decided to arrest you.

If you are at all unsure of your legal sobriety, you should refuse to take the tests. This way, the cops won’t have misleading footage of you performing the test poorly. Should your DWI case go to court, that kind of footage can make a huge difference when arguing your case to a jury.

Unfortunately, if you refuse to take the sobriety test, the police officer will probably arrest you on suspicion of DWI, citing your refusal as probable cause. If this happens, remember that resisting arrest in Texas (or any other state for that matter) will only lead to more problems. It’s better to stay calm and polite.

What to expect from a Texas roadside sobriety test

If you feel confident in your sobriety and know that you haven’t had a drop to drink or used any drugs (prescription or otherwise), taking a DWI tests can make your life much easier, just so long as you understand what to expect.

Note that the cops will not always take into account the shoes you’re wearing, injuries, or other physical quirks that could lead to one of their criteria for failure. If you agree to take the Texas field sobriety test while wearing heels or other uncomfortable shoes, ask for permission to take them off before performing the test as they could make the test even harder.

In Texas, The Standardized Field Sobriety Test is made up of 3 approved tests.

1) The Flashlight Test: In this field sobriety test, a police officer will ask you to follow an item placed in front of your eyes (usually a flashlight or a pencil) as they move it slowly from side-to-side.

Just because your eyes can follow the line doesn’t mean you’ve passed. Police are watching to see if your eyes jerk at all during the test. Unfortunately, the standards for failure are loose and easy for the police to manipulate.

2) Walk and Turn: It may seem like the easiest thing on earth, but even a sober person could fail the walk and turn test if they don’t understand the rules. Just as the name implies, this Texas field sobriety test requires you to walk in a straight line to a specific spot, turn around, and walk back to where you started.

Unbeknownst to most people, walking is only a small part of the DWI test itself. Police are actually watching for 8 criteria, including: poor balance, starting to walk before the police officer says “go,” taking the wrong number of steps, stepping off of the line, missing the heel-to-toe motion by more than ½ an inch, raising your arms more than 6 inches away from your sides, stopping before reaching the end of the line, and executing an “improper turn.”

3) One-Legged Stand: As if the first two DWI tests weren’t already rigged in the officer’s favor, they end things with a test many sober people fail — the one-legged stand. When taking this test, you must stand with one leg held 1’ 6’’ off the ground while counting down to 30 out loud. Swaying, raising your arms, hopping, and/or dropping your foot can all result in failure.

What happens when you fail a Texas field sobriety test

If a police officer determines you have failed one or more of the DWI tests — and they don’t have to explain which test you failed or why — then they will have the probable cause required to test your blood alcohol concentration or BAC.

If given the choice, it’s in your best interest to accept a breathalyzer test over a blood draw. Blood tests are generally accurate and harder to dispute in front of a jury, but breathalyzers tests (not unlike Texas field sobriety tests) are notoriously unreliable; combine the two and the prosecution’s case starts to develop holes.

Arrested for DWI? Call the Wilder Law Firm for expert defense

If you or a loved one failed a roadside sobriety test and were arrested for DWI, the time to act is now. Even if it’s only your first DWI offense in Texas, you still have only 15 days to save your license. Every day that you go without a quality defense puts your freedom at greater risk. You need a DWI attorney in Dallas that both understands the law and the front lines.

As a former prosecutor, Doug Wilder knows the State’s DWI prosecution strategies like the back of his hand and can defend his clients against even the toughest of charges. Doug and the Wilder Law Firm team are also certified Texas field sobriety test instructors. With over 20 years of criminal law experience, Doug and his team leave no stone unturned when striving to provide their clients with the most thorough defense possible.

From Dallas DWI charges to petitions for nondisclosure in Texas, Wilder Law Firm will start your case off on the right foot. Contact Wilder Law Firm online or at to schedule a free consultation today.