Nothing can put a damper on your travel time quite like a Texas police officer pulling you over in a traffic stop. If you were already having a bad day, an unexpected traffic stop might just be the final straw that causes your stress monitor to short circuit. While such situations are indeed stressful, you’re likelier to obtain a positive outcome if you remain calm and if you know your rights ahead of time.
Some traffic stops start out one way then diverge into much more serious situations. For instance, if the police officer sees a beer can in your car or thinks he or she smells alcohol on your breath, he or she may request you to step out of your vehicle. That’s a sure sign the officer suspects you of a crime, most likely drunk driving.
Things to know about field sobriety tests
A police officer must have probable cause to arrest you on suspicion of impaired driving. One of the ways police determine if they have such cause is to conduct field sobriety tests. The following list includes important facts you’ll want to know before you submit to a field test:
- The main purpose of such tests is to assess your physical coordination, agility, balance and cognitive abilities.
- If the police officer determines you lacking in any of these areas, you could wind up facing arrest for suspected intoxication while driving.
- Most officers use one of three field sobriety tests to look for probable cause. These include the one-leg stance, walk-and-turn and horizontal gaze nystagmus tests.
- You are not legally obligated to comply with a request to take a field sobriety test.
The last item on the list surprises many Texas drivers, as most automatically assume they have to take a field test if a cop asks them to do during a traffic stop. It’s important to remember that failing a field sobriety test may constitute probable cause to arrest you but it in no way constitutes guilt of a suspected crime.
Protecting your rights
Any number of issues might impede your ability to pass a field sobriety test. Maybe you’re a clumsy person, so walking a straight line or balancing on one leg is challenging for you. Perhaps you have an eyesight problem that would make tracking an object difficult. Just remember that if you take the test, the officer decides whether you pass or fail, and that decision can have a significant impact on your life.
Know your rights. If you believe a police officer has wrongly accused you or has violated the stringent regulations regarding search and seizure laws, you definitely can bring the matter to the court’s attention.