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Grant M. Scheiner - Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer

Why Your DWI Lawyer Should Thoroughly Understand Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

If you are arrested for DWI or DUI in Houston, or anywhere in Texas, it is likely that you were subjected to what attorneys refer to as Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (“SFSTs”). These tests are used in Texas and in other states as a standard part of DWI or DUI investigations, and your lawyer should be familiar with the guidelines they are based on.

The SFSTs generally consist of the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (referred to by many as the “eye test”), the one leg stand, and the walk and turn.  If you were asked to perform these tests, and you feel you did poorly, you are not alone. The tests are designed to be almost impossible to pass (particularly when forced to do them at the side of the road, or in a police station, with your freedom on the line) and are an extremely poor indicator of a person’s level of intoxication.

One of the problems with SFSTs in DUI or DWI investigations is that they do not (and cannot) take into account a person’s “normal” physical coordination. In other words, it is possible that an unusually coordinated intoxicated person could pass the tests, while a sober, uncoordinated person could fail.

Despite the test’s shortcomings, attorneys understand they are usually a central part of the State’s case in DWI and DUI trials in Houston and elsewhere in Texas. That is why it is essential that your lawyer thoroughly understand the guidelines the tests are based on, and do everything possible to limit their effectiveness in court. This includes criticizing the “science” the tests are based on, the conditions under which and individual was asked to perform the tests, the manner in which the tests were explained, and any pre-existing physical or mental conditions that might have made it difficult for an individual to perform the tests.