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artist rendition of Will Vaughn

2 kinds of tests officers perform during DWI traffic stops

On Behalf of | Aug 6, 2023 | DUI Defense

In Texas, police officers generally can’t conduct sobriety checkpoints as they do in other states. Therefore, most driving while intoxicated (DWI) arrests occur as a result of targeted enforcement efforts.

Police officers pull over specific individuals whose driving seems suspect or they question those involved in collisions and then potentially screen them for intoxication depending on their responses. When an officer believes that alcohol may have played a role in someone’s poor driving practices or a collision, they will usually screen someone by performing roadside testing. There are two different types of testing commonly utilized by officers in Texas hoping to build a DWI case.

Field sobriety tests

The first way to screen people for signs of impairment involves gauging their physical and cognitive function. There are three standardized field sobriety tests that assist in this process. Officers may check someone’s balance and their gait, as well as their memory and cognitive functioning. Field sobriety testing also looks at involuntary muscle spasms that become more pronounced when someone has alcohol in their bloodstream. Those field sobriety tests may provide probable cause for an officer to move on to chemical testing.

Chemical alcohol tests

Many DWI arrests occur after an officer has performed a roadside chemical test. Chemical breath tests are standard procedure in many jurisdictions, although they do sometimes produce false positives and lead to the unjustified arrest of individuals who weren’t over the legal limit or perhaps had nothing to drink at all. There are numerous ways that both chemical testing and field sobriety testing can fail and yield false positive results. Drivers accused of intoxication at the wheel sometimes challenge the legality or accuracy of tests as part of their defense strategy.

Understanding how officers seek to establish that someone was under the influence at the wheel through testing may help people facing criminal charges prepare more effective defense strategies to use during their trials. This knowledge can also help those who are pulled over – and have not yet been arrested – to make more informed choices while they’re navigating this potentially consequential situation.